On August 27, the Bee ran an article about FUSD trustee Terry Slatic’s questioning of a program for driving students off campus to receive reproductive health. Parents may be aware that reproductive health services are available to students–but they may not know that those services include abortion, and that the school can lie to keep parents from knowing about their daughter’s surgical procedure.
The program of transporting students off campus is run by the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission, taking students to the FEOC’s Health Center. According to the FEOC Health Center’s website, the program seeks to facilitate access to reproductive health and family planning for children 12 to 19 years of age without parental consent or awareness. Transportation of the child to the Fresno EOC Health Center is therefore free and occurs during school hours, under the confidentiality of the child’s school nurse, counselor, or case worker.
Once at the Health Center, the child has access to a variety of services, including contraceptives, STD testing, and pregnancy tests. The list currently present on the program’s website includes other services along the same nature, but it ends with a vague “referrals for other services,” a euphemistic phrase with a broad meaning that includes referrals for medication and surgical abortions. This, too, requires no parental consent or knowledge.
After calling the phone number on their website, I learned that a minor can have access to abortion services by receiving a referral from the EOC Health Center to Planned Parenthood or the FPA Women’s Health Clinic. More shockingly, if her parents call the school, the school has the choice to deny that the child has even left school grounds. As far as the parents are concerned, their child is present at school. Meanwhile, the child possibly faces medical decisions that can result in serious consequences to her body.
Evidently, this program exists on the assumption that all teenage children, including pre-teen 12 yr olds, possess the rationale to make well-informed decisions that will only optimize their sexual, reproductive health and autonomy. Such assumptions, however, are obviously disturbing to any parents desiring to protect and inform their children. It disturbs any parent who knows the weight of sexual and reproductive decisions, who also knows that childhood decisions often succumb to a limited perspective.
A reasonable question underlies the HEARTT program: is it ethical, especially as it pertains to abortion services, to offer a child choices of significant gravity while not only isolating her from her parents’ counsel, but also denying the parents any influence on the well-being of her whose life they must answer for? Another question inevitably arises: do parents, who send their kids to school in good faith that the school will protect them, not have a right to know where their child is?
It is easy to imagine that, indeed, the parents or guardians of a 12-year-old girl assume that they, above anyone else, have the right to the whereabouts of their child and that their counsel, as the people who know her best, matters. The assumption that a program like HEARTT functions on implies that parental judgement and influence are unnecessary in the reproductive health of their child, that such judgement often stands in contradiction to what is best for the child.
Abortion procedures are not a simple visit to the doctor. The complexity of the procedure varies depending on whether it is a surgical or medical abortion. Based on the experiences of many women who have undergone abortions or experienced other forms of pregnancy loss, the physical and psychological consequences may last long after the abortion takes place. And for a child dependent on her parents, these consequences will inevitably require the intervention of her parents to pick up the pieces.
The consequences of abortion cannot be handled by a child alone. Even the potential side effects of altering one’s hormones with birth control (yes, less risky than abortion but not as uneventful as taking ibuprofen) can be a heavy burden for a girl encouraged to keep her physical hardships and fluctuations in isolation from her parents’ awareness. This is the reality ignored by HEARTT and, unfortunately, California law. The teen years already possess their own natural difficulties. It is not a time of expertise about one’s body, let alone of making life-changing decisions regarding the unfamiliar and intimidating territory of sexuality and reproduction.
Certainly, there should be procedures in place for children in an unsafe home situation to keep potentially dangerous medical information confidential from an abusive parent or guardian. California’s current law surrounding reproductive healthcare goes too far in the opposite direction. The FEOC should be subject to reasonable questions about why they are involved in a program that is so dismissive of legitimate parental concern.
In its determination to make elective abortions a non-negotiable component of insurance coverage, the California Court of Appeals has recently rejected a lawsuit by the Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit, a Catholic convent in the L.A area, in which the sisters challenged a mandate forcing insurance companies to deny special coverage plans that exclude abortion to religious institutions.
Prior to the 2014 mandate originating from a letter sent by California’s Department of Managed Health Care, insurance providers such as Kaiser Permanente and Anthem Blue Cross had been tailoring their insurance plans to certains requests from religious institutions, such as Catholic universities and churches. These particular insurance plans did not include coverage for elective abortions—those not deemed medically necessary. Both Kaiser and Anthem obtained permission from the Department of Managed Health Care to provide these plans but were forced to cease after the Department sent its letter prohibiting the absence of abortion coverage. Because of that letter, every insurance plan sold in the state must include elective abortion coverage as an “essential” service.
According to an article published in the Los Angeles Times shortly after the publication of the court’s decision, the main question at hand in the lawsuit was whether or not administrative law had been violated when the Department of Managed Health Care enforced nonnegotiable abortion coverage in its 2014 letter to health insurers. The judges’ decision to reject the lawsuit stems from the observation that California law does not limit abortive procedures to cases in which the woman’s life is in danger. The court’s decision, furthermore, dilutes the terminological difference between medically necessary abortions and elective abortions, as the court claims that California law regarding abortion does not depend on the threat to the woman’s life but on fetal viability. In other words, California law bizarrely regards elective abortions as medically necessary in all cases, according to the judges.
Unmentioned in the article by the Times, however, is Planned Parenthood’s influence on the Department of Managed Health Care’s decision to issue the letter prohibiting health insurers from excluding abortion services from their plans. These emails showcase Planned Parenthood’s request to “fix” the “issue” of Catholic universities and institutions obtaining abortion exemptions in their insurance plans. Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit law firm representing First Amendment clients, has published the emails on their website, adflegal.org. They provide yet more evidence of Planned Parenthood’s significant role and influence not only in efforts to expand legalized abortion, but also in efforts to limit religious freedom.
We’re working with pro-lifers throughout the San Joaquin Valley and the state to get signatures to encourage the governor to veto the legislation. With thousands of opposition signatures, we hope to convince the governor to veto the legislation, or prevent its passage through the Legislature.
Right to Life is working actively to oppose SB 24, the bill before the California Legislature that requires medication abortion to be made available at the student health centers of every CSU and UC.
This is not a vain gesture. This legislation is at its weakest point, with the California Department of Finance last week issuing a report opposing the legislation for its fiscal irresponsibility. There is a significant chance that this legislation can be stopped, and we need to let the Governor and Legislature know that we oppose it.
You can download the petition in English here and Spanish here. There are a number of participating local Catholic churches that are serving as drop-off points for the petitions, and all petitions can be dropped off at Right to Life of Central California’s office: 1742 E Griffith Way, Fresno, CA 93726.