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    Family Integrity Initiative may appear on spring ballots

    The Portland Alliance, October 2002

    This spring, Oregon voters in seven counties may choose whether or not to implement the Constitution Party's Family Integrity Initiative. The initiative will appear on Columbia county's March ballot and plans to collect signatures are moving along in Clackamas, Marion, Polk, Washington, Yamhill and Jackson counties. The wording of the ballot title has brought challenges in some counties, and concerned citizens in Marion county successfully petitioned to have the ballot title reworded to, "[The county] shall provide only such public services to individual minor children as are permitted by their parent or parents or legal guardian, with exception for emergency services." Jackson county opponents were not successful in their attempt to change the ballot title, so for signature-gathering purposes in that county the unmodified Constitution Party wording stands as,"Prohibits non emergency services for minors unless parent consents." The pro-life Constitution Party, infamously associated with Lon Mabon, seems to have crafted this initiative with family planning services specifically in mind. A major part of the party's platform is upholding the rights of "pre-borns," even in cases of rape and incest, and last year the party proposed failed legislation that would have given counties the ability to eliminate all family planning programs. Currently, Oregon law allows teens to access birth control and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases without parental consent. However, the Family Integrity Initiative has sparked cautious interest from organizations as diverse as Outside In, the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association of Oregon, and the Faith Action Coalition because of overly broad language requiring parental consent to use public parks, libraries, and even police, whose services are not considered emergencies by the initiative. While Constitution Party state chairman Bob Ekstrom contends that the intent of the Family Integrity Initiative is to promote parental involvement, opponents are alarmed that requiring parental consent for public services will cause an array of problems that would negatively impact minors. Setting up a comprehensive system for monitoring each youth's parent-specified activities would be a beaurocratic nightmare, but studies show that more potentially negative consequences would become reality if teenagers were forced to get parental consent in order to use birth control or seek treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. On Aug. 14, the Journal of the American Medical Association released its findings that 60 percent of women under the age of 18 "would stop or delay seeking sexual and reproductive health care services if their parents were notified," but very few would stop having sex. "Treatments are always more effective when the family is supportive," said Janet Arenz of the Oregon Alliance of Children's Programs. "But when kids voluntarily seek help to get treatment, there should not be any barriers." Also affected by this proposed initiative are public programs aimed at tobacco prevention, mental health counseling, and suicide counseling.

    S.M. Berg is a writer, activist and cyclist in Portland

    Copyright © by genderberg.com All Right Reserved.

    Published on: 2005-02-23 (1493 reads)

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