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Opponents of Teen Abortion Measure Sue Over Pamphlet Languag

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Opponents of teen abortion measure sue over pamphlet language
by lisa leff, associated press writer

friday, august 5, 2005

(08-05) 17:18 pdt san francisco (ap) --

opponents and supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment requiring parental notification before doctors can perform abortions on minors have filed lawsuits challenging statements that the other side provided for the state's voter guide.

The lawsuits, filed in sacramento superior court by proposition 73's sponsors and by a pro-abortion rights group called campaign for teen safety, specifically take aim at the rebuttal arguments the opposing group submitted for the upcoming ballot guide. In it, each group offers its view of the ballot initiative's potential impact.

The legal tit-for-tat is just the beginning of what promises to be one of the most hotly contested campaigns of the nov. 8 special election. California currently has one of the nation's least-restrictive abortion laws, giving minors the same right as adults to seek the procedure upon demand.

Parents' right to know, the group behind proposition 73, said in a lawsuit filed thursday that it objects to the campaign for teen safety implying the law would apply to "teenagers" when it would cover only minors under 18. The sponsors also want the state to strike language saying "millions of concerned parents" are against the initiative without data backing that claim.

"it is illegal to present such false material because it costs several million dollars for the secretary of state to produce the official voter information guide and in several languages," said albin rhomberg, a spokesman for the pro-amendment campaign.

Rhomberg said his group also wants the state to strike or amend a section of the other side's rebuttal claiming "these teens don't need to be put on trial," a reference to a provision of the amendment that allows judges to provide girls with waivers exempting them from the parental notification requirement.

Meanwhile, the campaign for teen safety, which opposes the amendment, brought a lawsuit friday on behalf of two california pediatricians and a public health expert. The group said it had identified language it wants stricken from the soon-to-be-published pamphlet that is mailed to registered voters.

It objects to the phrase provided by parents' right to know: "over 30 states already have such laws, and their real world experience shows these laws reduce minors' pregnancy and abortion rates without danger and harm to minors," the disputed section reads.

The group argues that the parental notification law wouldn't reduce pregnancy or abortion rates while putting teenage girls at risk of botched abortions, poor prenatal care and family conflict.

"frightened teenagers who have doors closed to them are more likely to take unsafe risks than get the medical care they need," said Dr. Michael taymor, a palo alto pediatrician who lent his name to the lawsuit.

If voters pass proposition 73 in the nov. 8 special election, the state would join 32 others that already require parents or guardians to be notified before a minor undergoes an abortion. Abortion providers who do not comply could be sued for damages.

The proposed amendment contains a few exceptions for medical emergencies or to protect girls from abusive families; judges, for instance, would be allowed to waive the 48-hour notification period for individual girls "based on clear and convincing evidence of minor's maturity or minor's best interests."

beth parker, a lawyer representing campaign for teen safety, said several studies have shown that california's teen pregnancy and abortion rates have been falling faster than in those states with parental notification requirements.

Hearings on the lawsuits are likely to be held next week because the voter information guide is scheduled to go to the printers by august 18.

Proposition 73 is the latest effort by anti-abortion activists in california whose previous efforts to restrict abortion access for teenagers have been blocked by the courts.

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