Joy and Hope
October 18, 2008
Prop. 4 would return common sense to state law
On Nov. 4, I hope voters will pay very special attention to Proposition 4, the Parental Notification Initiative Before Termination of a Minor’s Pregnancy.
This is the third time that a proposition regarding parental notification comes before the voters, having failed in the two previous attempts. I wrote an article regarding the 2006 initiative. What I said then is still valid now so I am presenting it again with minor revisions.
Proposition 4 proposes to return common sense to California law, requiring that parents be informed in the event that their minor daughter requests the medical procedure of an abortion.
This is common sense because a parent has the primary responsibility for the welfare of one’s child, especially for the child’s health care. A parent will also be the most proximate adult in responding to the consequences of whatever medical care is provided.
Proposition 4 is good social policy because it supports what most families would expect and desire as it relates to their children’s welfare. It makes sense for government to support what is a reasonable expectation of parents, acknowledging that families are the cradle and crucible for society’s future citizens.
The debate over Proposition 4 also encourages a different kind of conversation, one that is much more fundamental than the choices presented by this proposition. Proposition 4 reminds parents of how important it is to talk to their children about sexuality and how to express one’s sexuality in a chaste way that is respectful of others as well as respectful of one’s own self.
Admittedly many parents, particularly parents with traditional religious beliefs, may hesitate when it comes to discussing sexuality with their children. It is not a topic that comes easily for many parents and some think that their religious traditions discourage such conversation.
The silence with which many faith traditions treat sexuality in their own congregations and in their homes leaves a vulnerable vacuum that other social influences are only too quick to fill with notions that distort and confuse the sexual development of many young people.
This presumed silence is perpetuated by the current state practice of denying the parents’ right to know when their daughter may be facing an unplanned pregnancy. The opponents of Proposition 4 are complicit in seeking to maintain this gap between parents and their children.
This silence does not have to be. Many of the major faith traditions have sound teachings on sexuality. They can bring a restored understanding of human sexuality that enhances the dignity of both the man and the woman, teachings that can help deal with many of the sexual problems our society faces today: adolescent pregnancy, increased incidents of sexually-transmitted diseases among teens, and the sexual abuse of minors — to name a few.
Christianity, contrary to many popular myths portrayed by the media, does not distain sexuality. In the light of the Christian Gospel, sexuality is a gift of God, a gift that allows one to share in the creative, life-giving love of God. One’s sexuality as a man or as a woman is part of what reveals God’s image and likeness in each of us. We become partners with God in loving and caring for one another.
For this reason, sexual intercourse, as a unique human expression of God’s faithful procreative love, is reserved for marriage between a man and woman so that it can portray with integrity this divine likeness.
This is good news for young people as they grow to discover themselves and understand their sexuality in the light of the Gospel, but it will only be so if pastoral ministers and parents openly and respectfully discuss this with them. The failure to do this will only further the arguments of the opponents of Proposition 4 and deny our youth the full knowledge of the beauty and grace that God has given them.