A Christian response to California Proposition 4

What was California Proposition 4?

SealofCaliforniaIn 1953, a state law was enacted that allowed minors to receive, without parental consent or notification, the same types of medical care for a pregnancy that are available to an adult. Based on this law and later legal developments related to abortion, minors were able to obtain abortions without parental consent or notification.

In 1987, the Legislature amended this law to require minors to obtain the consent of either a parent or a court before obtaining an abortion. However, due to legal challenges, the law was never implemented, and the California Supreme Court ultimately struck it down in 1997. Consequently, minors in the state currently receive abortion services to the same extent as adults. This includes minors in various state.


Notification Requirements

This measure amends the State Constitution to require, with certain exceptions, a physician (or his or her representative) to notify the parent or legal guardian of a pregnant minor at least 48 hours before performing an abortion involving that minor. (This measure does not require a physician or a minor to obtain the consent of a parent or guardian.) This measure applies only to cases involving an “unemancipated” minor. The measure identifies an unemancipated minor as being a female under the age of 18 who has not entered into a valid marriage, is not on active duty in the armed services of the United States, and has not been declared free from her parents’ or guardians’ custody and control under state law.

A physician would provide the required notification in either of the following two ways:

Personal Written Notification. Written notice could be provided to the parent or guardian personally–for example, when a parent accompanied the minor to an office examination.

Mail Notification. A parent or guardian could be sent a written notice by certified mail so long as a return receipt was requested by the physician and delivery of the notice was restricted to the parent or guardian who must be notified. An additional copy of the written notice would have to be sent at the same time to the parent or guardian by first-class mail. Under this method, notification would be presumed to have occurred as of noon on the second day after the written notice was postmarked.


Exceptions to Notification Requirements

The measure provides the following exceptions to the parental notification requirements:

Medical Emergencies. The notification requirements would not apply if the physician certifies in the minor’s medical record that the abortion is necessary to prevent the mother’s death or that a delay would “create serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”

Waivers Approved by Parent or Guardian. A minor’s parent or guardian could waive the notification requirements and the waiting period by completing and signing a written waiver form for the physician. The parent or guardian must specify on this form that the waiver would be valid either (1) for 30 days, (2) until a specified date, or (3) until the minor’s 18th birthday. The form would need to be notarized unless the parent or guardian delivered it personally to the physician.

Notice to Adult Family Member and Report of Abuse. The physician could notify an adult family member instead of notifying the minor’s parent based on the minor’s written statement that (1) she fears physical, sexual, or severe emotional abuse from a parent who would otherwise be notified, and (2) that her fear is based on a pattern of such abuse of her by a parent. The measure defines an adult family member as a person at least 21 years of age who is the grandparent, stepparent, foster parent, aunt, uncle, sibling, half-sibling, or first cousin of the minor. The manner of notice to an adult family member must be consistent with that required for parental notice. In addition, the measure requires the physician to make a written report of known or suspected child abuse to the appropriate law enforcement or public child protection agency. The physician would also be required to include with the notice a letter informing the adult family member about the report of abuse.

Waivers Approved by Courts. The pregnant minor could ask a juvenile court to waive the notification requirements. A court could do so if it finds that the minor is sufficiently mature and well-informed to decide whether to have an abortion or that notification would not be in the minor’s best interest. If the waiver request is denied, the minor could appeal that decision to an appellate court.

A minor seeking a waiver would not have to pay court fees, would be provided other assistance in the case by the court, and would be entitled to an attorney appointed by the court. The identity of the minor would be kept confidential. The court would generally have to hear and issue a ruling within three business days of receiving the waiver request. The appellate court would generally have to hear and decide any appeal within four business days.

The measure also requires that, in any case in which the court finds evidence of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, the court must refer the evidence to the appropriate law enforcement or public child protection agency.


Is this really an issue that is not addressed in scripture?

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.” (Ecc 1:9-10 NIV)


It has been suggested that because the specific issue of parental consent for abortion is not dealt with in Scripture there was valid room for disagreement between believers about which side of this issue a believer in Christ should support. However, I would suggest that this is a “straw man” argument because there are many issues in our modern world where the specific details of our situation are not mentioned in Scripture but where the principles found in Scripture clearly apply to the circumstances we face today. When we are faced with issues of corporate greed, we (I hope) don’t suggest that unethical behavior engaged in by a corporation is not a topic that is addressed in Scripture simply because Scripture does not mention “corporations”, or suggest that Internet pornography is not a topic that is addressed in Scripture simply because “The Internet” is not mentioned in Scripture. Scripture clearly speaks about greed and sexual immorality and the timeless principles found in Scripture on these topics can be clearly applied to the specific circumstances of greed and sexual immorality that are prevalent in our world today regardless of what form they take today.  Our goal should always be to seek to understand the timeless principles given in Scripture rather than simply trying to match exact circumstances.


What are we teaching our children?

‘Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress[i] them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut. 6:4-7 NIV)


When I think about Scripture passages that clearly describe, among other things, the role of a parent in the life of their children, this is always the first verse that comes to mind. The importance of this passage has been recognized and even incorporated in to the daily Jewish prayers since Old Testament times and it is this passage from which Jesus quoted when he was asked what the greatest command was. In essence, this verse asks us to recognize who God is, respond to God with love, obey God’s commands out of love, and to teach our children to obey God’s commands as a demonstration of our Love for God (and our children). It is the last part of this verse that I want to look at as we consider how we should respond to the issues raised in California Proposition 4. What are “these commandments” that we are asked to impress[1] on our children? In the context of this passage the primary commandments that being referenced are the ten commandments given in beginning in previous chapter (Duet. 5). The commandments from this passage that I believe are pertinent to this discussion are the commandments to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength, to honor your father and mother, to not covet, and to not bear false witness. Because California proposition 4 provided exceptions to the requirement that a parent be notified when a girl would be at risk if notification was required, the only reason to reject this law was simply to shield a teen girl from the requirement of telling her parents about the choice she intends to make; are these the values we really want to teach to our children?


  • Choosing abortion demonstrates a love for self, not a love for God, or a love for others (especially the baby who is being killed).
  • Hiding the intent to choose abortion from a parent demonstrates a rejection of a parent’s authority; it does not demonstrate the honor for a parent that God commands.
  • Choosing an abortion demonstrates covetousness for a life free from the responsibilities incurred by the pregnancy.
  • Hiding an abortion demonstrates passive dishonesty and sets up a situation where active dishonesty is the likely outcome (if a parent were ever to ask about the abortion).


When we communicate with our daughters about these kinds of issues, how can we tell our daughters that we believe that they should be allowed to choose an abortion without our knowledge or consent without compromising the values, found in Scripture, that God requires us to teach our children?

To be clear, I do not believe that this law by itself helps or hinders us from teaching our children about God’s commandments, but our support or rejection of this law does communicate our values in a way that really does affect what our children learn from us about God and what he has commanded.


[1]  The Hebrew phrase לבניך שננתם  used in this verse literally means ‘pierce them to your sons;’ metaphorically this verb carries the idea of strong forceful speech and can be used in a positive sense as it is here in this passage or in a negative sense as it is in Psalms 64:3 “They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim their words like deadly arrows” or in Psalms 140:3 “They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s; the poison of vipers is on their lips.” In every case this verb demonstrates strong intentionality.


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  1. Pingback: Should We Expect Unbelievers to Act Like Christians? | HaMilim

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