The fact that opponents of abortion are so demoralized as to introduce a sad sack of a bill like Proposition 4 is surely evidence of a fundamental problem with the Pro-Life cause.
Unlike the fire-breathing Pro-Lifers of the past who had the guts to call Roe v. Wade the Constitutional fanfiction that it was, it seems that today’s advocates for Life are more interested in putting self-evidently pointless legislation in the docket and then receding to the wilderness of irrelevance when that legislation fails to pass.
If there is any reason to vote for Proposition 4, it seems to be pity for the hapless figures behind the bill, who can’t seem to decide whether they want to craft a hard-hitting blast of social conservatism or an orgy of Statist liberalism. Indeed, Proposition 4 is unique in that it combines the worst elements of both the Statism of the Right and the Statism of the Left into a hellish, incoherent and interfering logical vacuum which sucks all rhetorical power from the very real issues of teen pregnancy and responsibility which the bill utterly fails to address.
In the first place, the bill is arguably unenforceable. Proposition 4 makes it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion on a girl without first notifying her parents and giving them 48 hours to talk her out of the idea. In principle, there’s nothing wrong with this, but the practical means of enforcement are so incompetent that they appear to have been drafted by the Keystone Cops. The only enforcement Proposition 4 provides to ensure this is the potential for monetary damages to be sought against physicians. That is, the bill is intended as a civil law, not a criminal law. Now, there’s nothing especially wrong with making the bill enforceable through lawsuits, except that proving the allegation that a physician performed an unlicensed abortion is extremely difficult, assuming such a lawsuit could even be brought in the first place.
Moreover, the “medical emergency” exception makes it very easy for unscrupulous physicians to fabricate fake “medical emergencies” to use as justification for avoiding the law – justifications which lawyers from sufficiently well-greased pro-choice nonprofits like Planned Parenthood could easily convince a court to uphold. Unfortunately, even if such a lawsuit were provable, the first instance of such a case would almost certainly be dragged to either the California Supreme Court or the Federal Supreme Court as a major constitutional issue. Given that the former body has already invalidated longstanding definitions of marriage on flimsy ground, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t do the same to this bill. The latter institution might be more sympathetic, but given that Supreme Court litigation is a costly and lengthy experience, the State’s budget would be substantially damaged and the bill would be kept from doing its job for as long as it took the Court to make up its mind, assuming it consented to hear the case and didn’t just let the much more liberal circuit court decide instead.
But even if the bill is enforceable, there’s serious trouble with what it’s actually enforcing. In a recent rebuttal of the arguments put forward against Proposition 4, Proposition 4’s proponents noted that the heart of the bill, its notification requirement, is “filled with caveats and exceptions.” Among these are dubious provisions, including some which allow girls to have other family members contacted if they fear abuse, and some which allow girls to get waivers in court for potentially abusive situations. The proponents themselves admitted that these exceptions were sufficiently broad that there was an incentive for minors to fabricate charges of abuse against their parents just to avoid the 48 hour notification rule. Clearly, given that telling one’s parents about pregnancy is about as attractive an idea as telling them one has totaled the car, this incentive is not only existent, but very likely to be abused horribly, even by children whose parents might potentially be understanding.
This potential for dishonesty on the part of desperate teenagers alone should kill the bill, but there’s an even worse element – once such a claim of abuse is made, the State itself gets involved. As such, otherwise loving families could either be broken up or subject to embarrassing, costly and utterly destructive State intervention simply because of one mistake by their teenage daughter. This should give conservative proponents of Proposition 4 especially severe concern, given that government workers, especially social workers, tend to be a liberal bunch, and might report instances of “abuse” which have nothing to do with actual psychological or physical damage and everything to do with ideologically focused pop psychology. As such, despite its ostensibly pro-family message, Proposition 4 could actually be used as a weapon to break up the traditional family by sufficiently canny teens and the overzealous, interventionist and predominately Democratic State government.
The intentions behind Proposition 4 are exceedingly noble. Its proponents obviously want to make it harder for teens to rush into sex and make communication between the young and the old more common. However, the bill fulfills neither of these purposes and is arguably hostile to both. As such, Proposition 4 would set back the Pro-Life cause and the battle over its passage is a battle which the Pro-Life side needs to lose so that it still stands a chance of winning the war.