News Abortion

California Parental Notification Ballot Amendment Dies

Robin Marty

Another ballot initiative fails to get enough support to win a vote.

A long shot becomes an impossibility, as one man’s quest to add a parental notification amendment to California’s state constitution fails due to lack of support.

Via San Diego City Beat:

In documents filed last November with the California Secretary of State’s office, [San Diego Reader editor Jim] Holman’s listed as a “V.P. for Development” and the Reader’s Little Italy offices as the mailing address for the fundraising committee “Californians for Parental Rights.”That month, the committee started circulating two similar petitions (one version required a 48-hour waiting period between notification and when the abortion can be performed; the other version didn’t) and had until April 30 to gather 807,615 signatures. Both of those petitions failed to qualify. On June 22, the Secretary of State’s office announced that two more petitions that entered circulation in January also failed to qualify. 

Holman has been triying unsuccessfully to put an amendment on the ballot since 2005.

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News Law and Policy

Is Anyone Enforcing California’s Crisis Pregnancy Center Regulations?

Nicole Knight Shine

NARAL investigators discovered two Sacramento-area CPCs that weren't following the law, and notified Sacramento city officials.

Reproductive rights advocates who hailed the enactment of California’s landmark crisis pregnancy center (CPC) regulation at the start of this year now find themselves cast in the new role of enforcement agents.

The state’s Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act requires, in the most basic terms, the state’s licensed CPCs to post a short notice about the availability of birth control and abortion care. Violators face civil penalties of $500.

Responsibility for enforcing the law falls squarely on the state attorney general, city attorneys, and county counsels. But some cities and counties are being sued by groups of CPCs that aim to block the law. And some attorneys for local governments are reportedly bargaining with CPCs to be dropped from the lawsuits in return for temporarily agreeing not to enforce the law.

Three advocacy organizations—NARAL Pro-Choice California, UltraViolet, and Courage Campaign—announced Tuesday that they will turn over petitions bearing 25,000 signatures that call on local authorities to take action. The petitions are being delivered to authorities in San Diego, Monterey, Nevada, and Humboldt counties—locales where reported “deals” are being hammered out.

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Rebecca Griffin, assistant director of California Programs for NARAL Pro-Choice California, said the organization hasn’t heard of a single case of the law being enforced since it took effect January 1.

The anti-choice activists who run CPCs have long trumpeted their plans to ignore the state legislation, calling it a bully bill. They have filed five lawsuits in federal and county jurisdictions up and down the state to stop it.

“I will not post that notice in our clinic,” Scott Scharpen, a pastor who operates a mobile CPC, said in a statement last year. “I would rather close the clinic than post that notice.”

Attorney Michael Colantuono, who represents the Northern California City of Grass Valley, reportedly told the Union that six local governments are considering not enforcing the law, “in exchange for the plaintiffs’ agreement to dismiss them from the case.”

Other local authorities, meanwhile, are punting enforcement duties to the state.

Thomas Bunton, attorney for the County of San Diego and a lawsuit defendant, indicated in court filings that the county would not enforce the law, and said any enforcement would most likely come from the state—meaning the attorney general.

But a spokeswoman from the office of state Attorney General Kamala Harris, who co-sponsored the legislation, said in an email to Rewire Monday that enforcement of individual cases of noncompliance would be left primarily to local authorities.

Multiple reports describing how CPCs mislead and outright lie to pregnant people helped spur the legislation’s passage last year. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed the FACT Act into law October 9, after it cleared the Democratic-led legislature. Some 80 percent of likely Golden State voters polled by Tulchin Research in August 2015 said they support the disclosure requirement.

Amy Everitt, state director of NARAL Pro-Choice California, said in a statement Tuesday that Californians’ reproductive health “shouldn’t be subject to the whims of extremist anti-choice organizations and their rabid lawyers.”

She said that city and county attorneys in the state have a responsibility to make sure residents receive unbiased information about their reproductive health-care options.

NARAL, meanwhile, has begun training a team of volunteers who will check whether CPCs are complying. Griffin said they have discovered two Sacramento-area CPCs that weren’t following the law, and notified the Sacramento city attorney and county counsel on March 10.

“We’re kind of handing this to them on a platter,” Griffin told Rewire. “We’re making it very easy for them” to enforce the law.

Griffin said the organization sent letters in mid-February to authorities in 58 counties and 48 cities across the state encouraging them to take action. They have yet to receive a response.

Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of the women’s rights group UltraViolet, noted in a statement on Tuesday, that the popular reform law, which is meant to protect patients, “means virtually nothing if California’s government officials do not enforce it.”

She called on elected leaders to hold CPCs accountable. “The people of California have spoken,” she said, “and we will not allow these extremists to continue forcing their antiquated, misogynistic values onto the women of California.”

News Law and Policy

California Ballot Initiative Pushes for ‘Personhood’—Again

Nicole Knight Shine

The proposed constitutional amendment would "extend constitutional protections of due process and equal protection to all fertilized human eggs.”

A California anti-choice group has proposed a ballot initiative to categorize a fertilized human egg as a person, a measure that could essentially criminalize abortion in the Golden State as well as ban several types of contraception.

The constitutional amendment would “extend constitutional protections of due process and equal protection to all fertilized human eggs,” according to the California secretary of state’s description of the measure.

The proposed initiative is backed by the California Civil Rights Foundation, a Union City-based group with an advisory board that includes anti-choice advocates Troy Newman, the head of Operation Rescue, and Lila Rose, the founder and president of Live Action.

Initiative sponsor Walter B. Hoye, who filed the measure with the state attorney general’s office October 1, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. In media reports, Hoye has stated his opposition to abortion and cited the high rate of the procedure in the Black community. Such statistics are often used as a ploy to dismantle reproductive rights under the guise of racial justice, as Rewire has reported.

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The proposed initiative needs 585,407 signatures to make it onto the November ballot.

Similar measures in California in the past have failed to secure enough signatures, including an identical initiative by Hoye and others last year.

Republican lawmakers in other states have latched onto the notion of defining life as beginning at fertilization—a concept commonly called “personhood”—and introduced a slew of bills in 2015.

The push has met with little success. Personhood measures introduced this year in IowaColorado, Missouri, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington have stalled in legislative committees.

A Montana bill backing a ballot measure similar to the constitutional amendment proposed in California also died in committee.

Some of the bills, such as Iowa’s failed measure, included exceptions to decriminalize accidental death or in cases where contraception was administered “before a clinically diagnosable pregnancy,” as Rewire has reported. The language submitted to the California attorney general for the proposed initiative makes no exceptions:

The term “PERSON,” as it is applied to all living human beings, applies to all living human beings from the beginning of their biological development as human beings (i.e., human organism), regardless of the means by which he or she was procreated, method of reproduction, age, race, sex, gender, physical well-being, function, size, level of development, environment, and/or degree of physical or mental dependency and/or disability.

The language also opens the door for “personhood” protections on zygotes formed through in vitro fertilization.