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Prop. 4 backers admit girl's death is not applicable; Law couldn't have halted botched abortion

Copyright 2008 The San Diego Union-Tribune

The San Diego Union-Tribune 
August 2, 2008 Saturday 

SACRAMENTO -- Backers of Proposition 4 have relied heavily on the tragic death of a teenager called Sarah to illustrate the need for their measure, which would require a doctor to notify a parent before performing an abortion on an unmarried girl under 18.

They've even named the initiative Sarah's law.

But yesterday, supporters acknowledged that Sarah's death from a botched abortion in 1994 couldn't have been avoided by Proposition 4.

"There were things we did not know about the case," said Katie Short, a spokeswoman for Proposition 4. "This was not a deliberate deception."

The admission came in response to a lawsuit filed in Sacramento County Superior Court by opponents of Proposition 4 to require the supporters to remove references to Sarah in their ballot arguments.

Sarah, the pseudonym given to a 15-year-old Texas girl, was in a common-law marriage, which would have eliminated the requirement that her parents be told of her abortion under Proposition 4.

Her real name was Jammie Garcia Yanez-Villegas, and she had another child at the time of her death.

Texas is one of only nine states that recognize common-law marriages, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

"Sarah's case is completely unrelated to Proposition 4," the lawsuit states. "Its inclusion is a salacious attempt to falsely mislead voters."

Supporters of parental-notification measures, with financial backing from Jim Holman, publisher of the San Diego Reader, have failed to pass similar measures in 2005 and 2006. This year, Holman donated more money to help get the measure on the ballot a third time.

Proponents argue that a parent should have the right to know if an unmarried daughter younger than 18 is getting an abortion. Opponents contend, however, that requiring parental notification puts girls from abusive families at risk.

This year, backers of the measure highlighted Sarah's story from the beginning of the campaign.

The Yes on Proposition 4 Web site says Sarah died from a botched abortion, but her parents didn't know she had undergone the procedure until it was too late because the state didn't have a notification law at the time. "Sarah's family could have saved her -- had they known," the site says.

Short said Proposition 4 backers will change their campaign materials to reflect the new facts about Sarah, but that the issue will have no impact on the campaign.

"It doesn't undermine our point that seeking an abortion without parental involvement puts a teenager at risk," she said.

Vince Hall, spokesman for Planned Parenthood of San Diego and Riverside Counties, said, "Their whole campaign is based on deception."


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