Weekly Legislative Update
by George Lauer
Organizers of Proposition 85 -- the parental notification of abortion initiative defeated by California voters last month -- are hoping the third time will be the charm. And if not the third, then the fourth or fifth.
"Yes, there is definitely interest in bringing this issue to the voters again, and there is a strong possibility of having more than one opportunity to do that," said Albin Rhomberg, organizer and spokesperson for back-to-back losing efforts to pass a parental notification law in California.
"There is a possibility of three statewide elections in California in 2008, and the people behind Proposition 85 are definitely considering trying again, maybe more than once, if need be," Rhomberg said.
In addition to the June primary and November election in 2008, California voters might be asked to vote on term limits and redistricting in a special election in March 2007. Some Sacramento sources say the March election might be the first item of business when the Legislature goes back to work in January 2007.
Proposition 85 proponents -- the same organizers and monetary backers who supported a similar proposal in 2005 -- say they intend to have a new proposition in the works in time for the March ballot, if there is a special election.
In the special election of 2005, Proposition 73 -- which would have required doctors to notify a parent or guardian before performing an abortion on a girl under age 18 -- lost by a margin of 53% to 47% percent. Proposition 85, slightly retooled but essentially the same as Proposition 73, last month lost by a wider margin -- 54.1% to 45.9%.
While organizers hope to get support from the same individuals and organizations the next time around, Rhomberg said there will be an effort to broaden the base of support -- especially financially.
The back-to-back initiatives were largely bankrolled by James Holman, publisher of the San Diego Readers and a chain of Catholic newspapers. He contributed more than $2.6 million to Proposition 85 and $1.2 million to Proposition 73. Proposition 85's campaign contributions totaled about $4.2 million.
Parental notification opponents, led by Planned Parenthood and Affiliates, raised more than $5.6 million to defeat the measure.
Proponents, including the Roman Catholic Church, conducted voter outreach efforts and preached yes votes from the pulpit. The Catholic Church organized neighborhood drives in several California cities, concentrating on Latino neighborhoods. Latino voters split about 50-50 on the initiative, according to exit polls.
Democrat and Republican breakdowns on Proposition 85 were almost exact opposites of each other: Republican voters favored the measure 73% to 27%; Democrats opposed it 72% to 28%. Independents opposed Proposition 85 63% to 37%.
California voters were in tune with other states last month on this issue. A parental notification measure was defeated in Oregon, and a measure that would have banned most abortions lost in South Dakota. In Kansas, an attorney general candidate whose campaign included efforts to gain access to patient records from abortion clinics lost a bid for re-election.
It will be at least 15 months before the parental notification issue could return to a California ballot - maybe long enough for voters to forget. Following so closely on the heels of Proposition 73 might have backfired for Proposition 85.
"I think voters said, 'I thought we already decided this,'" said Mark DiCamillo, director of the California Field Poll.