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Parental-notification rematch likely for November ballot

The proponents of last year’s failed parental-notification initiative are
back, pushing a nearly identical measure for this year’s November ballot.
Buoyed by $2 million from conservative financier and newspaper owner James
Holman, the campaign already has collected 700,000 signatures–100,000 more
than is needed–to place a measure on the fall ballot.

The campaign intends to turn those signatures, and more, in to counties
across the state by mid-May, setting up a rematch of last year’s heated
abortion debate during the fall’s gubernatorial election.

“We’ve gathered more than 700,000 signatures and we are planning on
qualifying for the November ballot,” said campaign spokesman Albin Rhomberg.

Only days after voters defeated Proposition 73 last fall, backers of the
measure, which requires teens to wait 48 hours and notify a parent before
obtaining an abortion, gathered and decided to rerun the campaign in 2006.
They filed this year’s nearly unchanged initiative with the attorney
general’s office on November 30, only three weeks after the special
election.

“Given its popularity, given the polling, it would have been defeatist not
to give a larger, representative sample of California voters the chance to
pass this,” says Rhomberg.

But Kathy Kneer, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of
California, says the redundant initiative campaign is a distortion and
politicization of the initiative process.

“This is really playing political games and putting our teens’ health and
safety at risk,” said Kneer, whose organization led the fight against
Proposition 73 and will head up opposition to the latest measure. “It’s very
frustrating because we would rather spend time and money preventing teen
pregnancy to begin with.”

But Rhomberg says last year’s parental-notification measure did not fail
because it was unpopular. Instead, he says, the initiative fell victim to “a
skewed electorate” that voted “no on everything.” All eight measures in last
year’s special election lost. But Proposition 73 finished the closest, with
52.6 percent of voters opposing the measure and 47.4 percent of voters
supporting it.

“We won a majority of counties, we won in a majority of Assembly districts
and congressional districts,” says Rhomberg. “Except for that peculiar
turnout we would have won.”

But Kneer derided the theory as a wild scenario. “I don’t think they are
going to win this second time,” she said.

While the 2006 initiative is essentially the same as last year’s, one key
provision has been changed. The 2005 measure defined abortion as “the death
of the unborn child, a child conceived but not yet born.” That definition
sparked outrage among abortion-rights activists, who charged that it was an
attempt to slip new pro-life language into the state constitution. It also
became a theme of last year’s campaign to defeat the measure.

The new version of the initiative defines abortion differently, as “the use
of any means to terminate the pregnancy of an unemancipated minor, except
for the purpose of producing a live birth.” Like last year’s measure, there
is a clause allowing minors to avoid parental notification by appearing in
juvenile court.

Since last fall’s election, Life on the Ballot, the campaign committee
raising money for the measure, has taken in more than $2.3 million, the
lion’s share of which ($2 million) comes in loans from James Holman. Don
Sebastiani, who also supported last year’s measure, has contributed another
$200,000.

“It is politics of one individual being able to buy and influence the
process,” says Kneer. “The voters have already spoken and we are having this
fight because of one man: James Holman. That’s just a sad statement.”

In last year’s special election much was made of parental notification being
used as a tool to mobilize conservative-Christian voters for Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger’s initiatives. Although the governor did not actively
campaign for Proposition 73, he supported the measure, saying, “I wouldn’t
want to have someone take my daughter to a hospital for an abortion or
something and not tell me. I would kill him if they do that.”

The governor’s campaign declined to comment on any impact a
parental-notification measure would have on his campaign this fall.

Most Democrats, meanwhile, are simply frustrated that they will have to wage
a war they thought was won last year. At last weekend’s Democratic
convention, a Planned Parenthood table was distributing small green stickers
that said, “No, again!”

“It’s a strain,” says Kneer.

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