California Judge Says Abortion Story Behind Parental Notification OK for Ballot

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 12, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Judge Says Abortion Story Behind Parental Notification OK for Ballot

by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 12
, 2008

Sacramento, CA ( — A California judge has ruled that the summary backers of a measure for parental notification on abortion originally submitted can stay on the ballot. Abortion advocates challenged it when they learned the teenager involved in the story did not need to notify her parents.

The notification measure, also called Sarah’s Law, is named for a 15-year-old girl who died just four days after a legal abortion left her with a torn cervix and fatal infection.

The California Secretary of State qualified Sarah’s Law for the November ballot after backers submitted enough signatures for it and named it Proposition 4.

But California Planned Parenthood advocates have sued state officials saying Sarah was in a common-law marriage with a man from Texas at the time of her death and wouldn’t need to tell her parents about her potential abortion decision.

On Friday, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael P. Kenny ruled the story about Sarah can stay on the ballot.

"The courts have recognized that in ballot arguments, proponents are allowed to engage in hyperbole," he said in the ruling, according to a Sacramento Bee report.

The information on the ballot talks about the infection she obtained during the abortion that caused her death and reads: "Sarah was only 15 when she had a secret abortion. Had someone in her family known about the abortion, Sarah’s life could have been saved."

During the hearing, attorney Beth Porter, who represented Planned Parenthood, the abortion business challenging the law, said Sarah was 15-year-old Jammie Garcia Yanez-Villegas who was living with her fiance at the time of the abortion.

As a result, she would not have qualified for the parental notification law in California if it were in place at the time, she said, according to the Bee.

Meanwhile, Catherine Short said the girl is just Jammie Garcia and said she never told the abortion center she was in a common law marriage before the abortion. She says the teen would qualify for the law because California law has different common law marriage statutes than Texas.

"Had someone in her family known, Sarah’s life could have been saved," Short said.

Previously, Erica Little, a representative of the group backing the parental notification measure, said it doesn’t matter if Sarah was married or not at the time of her death.

Little maintains that teenage girls lack the capacity to make major health decisions on their own and should have parental involvement to learn about the risks and alternatives.

"However, she was still 15 and was not equipped to make medical decisions on her own, whether she was living with the father of her child or not," Little said.

"We will modify the way we present ‘Sarah’ to be accurate with the information," Little said. "But we don’t think the use of her story is marred."

Physicians in Sarah’s case said that, had an adult family member been aware that she had undergone an abortion, her life likely could have been spared by prompt medical attention.

A recent poll found California voters are not familiar with the statewide initiatives that will appear on the ballot when voters go to the polls in November.

Of those voters who know about the notification proposal, the poll shows a plurality say they would support it.

The Field Poll found 48 percent of the registered voters polled in the survey would support the parental notification measure while 39 percent would oppose it. Another 13 percent are undecided.

Proponents submitted more than 1.2 million signatures on petitions seeking a third vote on adult involvement in minors’ abortions, after Propositions 73 and 85 were narrowly defeated in 2005 and 2006.

If approved, the measure would require an abortion practitioner to notify a parent or other adult family member before performing an abortion on a minor girl under the age of 18.

That’s a change from the previous proposals, which required only that parents be notified about the potential law.

Supporters hope it will help the measure get more votes, but some pro-life advocates are not supporting the revised initiative because they don’t think anyone other than a girl’s parents should be told about her abortion. They say the revised measure would keep parents in the dark while a family member who may not know the girl or her parents well would be notified instead.

Related web sites:
Friends of Sarah –


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