California's Prop. 85: New, improved, still evil

On the upside, the measure could mobilize pro-choice, anti-Arnold voters.

Published August 2, 2006 1:23AM (EDT)

Remember Proposition 73? This measure -- voted down by a narrow margin in California a year ago -- would have required doctors in the state to notify a parent or guardian before performing abortions on girls under 18. Yes, girls would have the alternative "option" of seeking permission from a judge in their spare time, but Proposition 73 would also have required courts to issue public reports each year on how many such requests every judge had granted or denied. Which, if you ask me, didn't exactly get out the judge vote for the "Yes" side. Proposition 73 also went out of its way to break with medically worded state law to define abortion as a procedure that intentionally causes "the death of the unborn child, a child conceived but not yet born."

Well, just in time for this year's elections, Proposition 73 is back -- tanned, slimmed down and using a hipper new name: Proposition 85. Gone are the words "death" and "child," along with the court reports provision. About that, part of me wants to say, "Ha, ha!" but part of me wants to say, "Uh-oh." Perhaps its proponents cleaned it up to make it more palatable -- perhaps, even, to make it more stealthy. ("If we don't call it an 'unborn child,' maybe they won't notice we're antiabortion.") Also, Gov. Schwarzenegger, a vocal supporter of Prop. 73, has been pretty mum on this one. So now that it's seen less as one of his pets, will voters -- who were gripped by a bit of an anti-whatever-the-Governator-wants frenzy in last year's special election -- now be more likely to say, "Yeah, there oughta be a law" and hit "Yes" on Prop. 85? Could happen, especially considering that the ballot will be positively crammed with other initiatives for them to sort out as well.

But this time, at least, we've got a governor's race on, and a Democratic challenger who's reminding voters just what's wrong with this law -- and who supported it last time. "There is now an effort by anti-choice extremists to roll back the clock to a much darker day," gubernatorial hopeful Phil Angelides said in an appearance with NARAL Pro-Choice America. "The fact is, voters of California rejected a similar measure and said it was wrong for anti-choice extremists and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to jeopardize teen safety." So there's that. "I think [Prop. 85] is a real issue and it will be able to help us," Bill Carrick, senior strategist for the Angelides campaign, told the Sacramento Bee. "Pro-choice women will know that they can count on Phil, but they can't count on Arnold."

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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