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
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