Dying for the truth


In California, public discourse about life-related issues has been pushed behind closed doors.  So-called "privacy" has been used to trump any meaningful public discussion of the complexities surrounding the beginning and end of human life.

After 33 years of Roe v. Wade, a lot has been said about abortion, but little is known. That is because secrecy is standard operating procedure at Planned Parenthood. Unlike most medical practitioners, abortion providers in California are not required to report vital outcome statistics. Abortion puts women at risk for infertility, psychological trauma, and even death; however, extremists have repeatedly blocked bills that would provide women with accurate and necessary medical information in order to make an informed choice.

Information can change the outcome. A nationwide study showed that 79 percent of "abortion-minded women"—women who have scheduled an abortion—when given the opportunity to see their babies on ultrasound, ultimately choose life.

Kathleen Eaton, president of Birth Choice clinics in Orange County, says that in California the statistic is lower—40 to 50 percent—although still encouraging. As ultrasound and other technologies allow us to view the mysteries of life, the undeniable humanness of unborn children reaches out from the womb. 

Some "pregnancy resource centers" are being transformed into licensed medical clinics—offering ultrasound technology, and pregnancy and STD testing. This new breed of support attracts pregnant women searching for medical answers. That's good news, because the facts are on the side of life.

The sky is falling
In the final weeks leading up to the last election, Planned Parenthood and its allies spent millions of dollars in false advertising, erroneously dubbing Proposition 85, the parental notification law, an attack on Roe v. Wade. Pro-lifers have been stigmatized and marginalized by the fear-mongers who dominate California's media attitudes toward abortion.

As a result, there is still no protection under California law for the 42,000 teenaged girls who will face an unplanned pregnancy this year—no requirement to provide information, options, a waiting period, or parental notification.

The waiver included in last year's parental-notification initiative—which would have allowed a juvenile-court judge to bypass informing a parent—was discounted by opponents as unreasonable and cumbersome. The truth is that 34 other states with parental consent or notification laws have granted tens of thousands of such waivers, without unreasonably burdening pregnant teens. In fact, abortion providers help teens fill out and submit the waiver form.

Additional studies in those states found that parental consent or notification laws decrease unwanted teen pregnancies and abortions, and reduce risky sexual behavior, without any risk of harm to young girls. California public policy can strengthen families by reinforcing parental authority. Unfortunately, California's laws have created a legal wall of separation between parents and children.

Licensed to kill
Last year, the physician-assisted suicide bill, Assembly Bill AB 651, was successfully defeated. Both the American Medical Association and the California Medical Association opposed the bill with help from a broad coalition of organizations working with bi-partisan leadership in the California State Legislature.

As newly elected members are sworn in, this coalition will seek out representatives willing to champion the cause of life in the new year. 

A similar bill will be introduced in the early weeks of the 2007 California legislative session. If it passes, California doctors would be able to prescribe "terminally ill" patients a lethal dose of medication to prematurely end their lives. Physician-assisted suicide is an aggressive effort to promote premature death and absolve all those involved from civil or criminal liability. This bill will not address the use of artificial life support to prolong a patient's natural life—a decision already permitted under California law. 

While nominal safeguards are proposed, such as a 15-day waiting period, assisted suicide is ripe for abuse. For example, AB 651 claimed to prevent life-ending prescriptions for the severely depressed or mentally ill; however, studies confirm that most of those killed under Oregon's assisted-suicide law consented to the lethal procedure because they were depressed. Furthermore, the pretense that assisted suicide will be limited to the terminally ill is a protection only on paper that will quickly be breached, as has already happened in Oregon.

Exposing the truth
Proponents of physician-assisted suicide and abortion have turned the truth upside down. Now it's time to set things right.  Engaging in public debate armed with facts is the first step toward changing the deteriorating culture of life in California.

Physician-assisted suicide isn't about improving care for the terminally ill; it is about promoting death. More attention should be paid to the quality of life for patients living with chronic and terminal illness. Experts report that, when the issue of pain is resolved, requests to end life all but disappear.

Regarding abortion, the number of repeat abortions—women who have had more than one abortion—is on the rise.  The Alan Guttmacher Institute reported that about half of all abortions are done on women who have had a previous abortion. So-called "safe sex" has failed to prevent the estimated 43 million abortions since Roe v. Wade.

That's 43 million reasons to talk about life.

This year, let's resolve to tell the truth.

Abby Llewellyn Bailes is a public policy specialist for the California Family Council.