Parental Notification/Judicial Bypass

Bob Sheridan bobsheridan at
Sat Nov 5 06:46:57 PST 2005

FYI, from the San Francisco Chronicle ( Letters department:


A retired judge views parental notification

Editor -- As a retired Alameda County Superior Court judge with juvenile 
court experience, I disagree strongly with Debra J. Saunders' column 
about Proposition 73 ("Parents should be notified," Nov 3). The 
initiative requires the doctor to notify a parent before performing an 
abortion on a girl under the age of 18, unless the girl goes to court 
for an order "bypassing" the requirement.

Recently, the Juvenile Court Judges section of the California Judges 
Association took a stand against Prop. 73, stating that it "would impose 
substantial burdens" on an "already overburdened court system." That 
shouldn't surprise anyone.

Courts can be a difficult place for even the most experienced citizens 
-- including lawyers and judges. Complex laws and procedures are often 
necessary to enforce laws and protect citizens. But court is certainly 
not the place to send a scared, pregnant teenager who, for whatever 
reasons, fears talking to her parents.

Think about it: Prop. 73 would require her to navigate a crowded 
courthouse, find her way through an unfamiliar legal system, discuss her 
most intimate family issues -- possibly including abuse and incest -- 
with a guardian and a lawyer (both appointed by the court) whom she has 
just met, and then face a judge who has the power to make a decision 
that can affect the rest of her life.

She doesn't need a judge -- she needs sympathetic counseling and expert 
medical attention.

Of course, all parents want their daughters to come to them when they 
are in trouble. And studies show that most teenagers do involve at least 
one parent when faced with decisions about an unplanned pregnancy.

But let's be real. Not all families are ideal. Unfortunately, many young 
women come from families where there is already abuse, or worse, incest. 
These girls cannot, for real fear for their safety, involve their parents.

I believe that requiring pregnant teenagers to choose between going to 
court or telling their parents will only dissuade them from seeking 
competent professional help, and could induce them to leave the state or 
resort to illegal, unsafe or even self-induced abortions.

Prop. 73 cannot force communication in families that are dysfunctional. 
It cannot assure that an overburdened juvenile-court system will protect 
pregnant teenagers. But it can put the safety of our most vulnerable 
young women at risk.

Their safety is our responsibility. That's why I'm voting no on Prop. 73.




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