Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Lies and damn lies

It's bad enough when opposite sides of a ballot measure stretch the truth to promote their opinion. It's quite another when the state's leading newspaper repeats the same lies and presents them as the truth, leaving out part of the story in an effort to paint one side in negative terms.

Today's Oregonian has a story titled "Abortion issue foes trade accusations." In it, Oregonian reporter Michelle Cole writes about Ballot Measure 43, which would require parental notification before a teenage girl could seek an abortion. Just two paragraphs after a Measure 43 opponent says "There's a lot of misleading information being put out," Cole writes:
With less than a week before Election Day, the proposal's language concerning rape and incest and its judicial bypass provision have emerged as the main points of contention.

Measure 43, which applies to 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds, makes an exception to parental notification in medical emergencies. But the exception does not apply to teens who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest. Instead, teens who have suffered abuse and other teens who seek an abortion without a parent knowing must apply to an administrative law judge for a judicial bypass.
In a true medical emergency, something must be done or the girl's life is in danger. In cases of rape or incest, what's best? Is it best to abort the baby immediately in order to save the girl the trauma of carrying a child forced upon her by an unwelcome man? Or is it better to maintain the evidence inside that girl and report the rape or incest so the man pays a price?

If a girl impregnated by rape or incest can run straight to the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic and abort the child, the evidence of rape is aborted along with it. And, there is no guarantee that the clinic will report the crime. (There is already plenty of evidence from around the country that such clinics do not always report sexual crimes, particularly statutory rape. In Oregon, a 15-year-old girl who has sex, even if consensual, has been statutorily raped, which is a class C felony; it does not matter if the male partner is 15 or 50.) Whereas an administrative law judge, as a member of the law enforcement community, would be compelled to report such crimes.

If you think a girl is reluctant to tell her parents about her pregnancy, just imagine how reluctant she would be to tell authorities that her dad is raping her. The judicial bypass gives her a way around that land mine.

As an example of why a judicial bypass is important and helpful in cases of rape and incest, check out the Eastern Oregon University student handbook. It includes a section on what students should do if they are raped (caps in original, ellipsis mine):
  • Go to a safe place or call someone to help you. It is important that you protect yourself from further assault. Consider contacting the police for protection if necessary.
  • DO NOT URINATE – Especially if you think you might have been given a date rape drug.
Note: These are important because evidence can be gathered at the scene by the police, and on your body and clothes by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner . . . to be used in legal proceedings.
And that's for girls who are already adults in the eyes of the law! Can you possibly read through that and tell me you think it's a good idea that (under current law) abusers or rapists can force their victim to abort the evidence of the crime without any accountability?

So why do I think Cole's reporting is dishonest? After all, she's right -- the measure doesn't say anything about rape or incest. But it clearly applies to those victims, allowing them to move on from the abuse and the pregnancy. Just like the parental notification measures in 35 other states, which also have judicial bypass provisions. That's why the story is dishonest -- it paints the measure as forcing teen victims of rape and incest to jump through acres of administrative hoops, when the reality is that the bypass is simple, and it allows the law to catch up to rapists and abusers.

Let me say it again: the judicial bypass is not difficult to maneuver. How hard is it to pick up the phone? If a teen girl knows the choice is telling her abusive dad that she's pregnant or making a phone call, which one do you think she'll choose?

Oh, on a related note, I have to make a few quick comments on Susan Nielsen's Sunday column on this law. In the fifth paragraph, she writes:
Under Oregon law, teenagers are considered old enough at 15 to consent to nearly all medical care, including abortion, without parental involvement. (They still need permission for getting pierced ears, which is a cosmetic procedure, or taking aspirin from the school nurse, a government employee.)
Nielsen seems to be saying:
  1. It's appropriate to require permission for cosmetic procedures like ear piercing, but there's no need for such permission when it's just internal surgery. In and of itself, that statement is rediculous because it's clear that abortion is much more serious than a pinprick in an earlobe;
  2. Just because Oregon law allows 15-year-olds to consent to "nearly all medical care" doesn't make it right. If 15-year-olds can't vote, drive, drink or consent to sex, who is it that thinks they should be able to give their OK for surgery?
  3. Nielsen says that requiring permission for a school nurse to give aspirin is appropriate because the nurse is a "government employee." According to Nielsen's logic, it should also be appropriate for that nurse to seek parental permission every time she talks to that girl about birth control or makes a referral to an abortion clinic. (Think that's gonna happen? Me either.)
But Nielsen's arguments, just like Cole's reporting, are great examples of the intellectual dishonesty of the No on 43 campaign.


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