California Proposition 4 (2008)

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Proposition 4, or the Abortion Waiting Period and Parental Notification Initiative, also known to its supporters as Sarah's Law, was an initiative state constitutional amendment on the 2008 California General Election ballot [1][2][3]

The initiative would prohibit abortion for un-emancipated minors until 48 hours after physician notifies minor’s parent, legal guardian or, if parental abuse has been reported, an alternative adult family member.

Proposition 4 was rejected by voters on November 4, 2008.

Specific provisions[edit]

The proposed initiative, if enacted as a constitutional amendment, would:

  • Provide exceptions for medical emergency or parental waiver.
  • Permit courts to waive notice based on clear and convincing evidence of minor’s maturity or best interests.
  • Mandate reporting requirements, including reports from physicians regarding abortions on minors.
  • Authorize monetary damages against physicians for violation.
  • Require minor’s consent to abortion, with exceptions.
  • Permit judicial relief if minor’s consent is coerced.

Fiscal Impact[edit]

  • Health and Social Services Costs. Annual costs in the range of $4 million to $5 million for the state and about $2 million for counties, and potential one-time Medi-Cal automation costs unlikely to exceed a few million dollars.
  • Costs to Local Law Enforcement and Courts. Annual costs in the range of $5 million to $6 million per year.
  • Potential Offsetting Savings. Unknown, potential savings to the state in health care and public assistance costs from decreases in sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy.[4]


  • The Friends of Sarah, the Parental or Alternative Family Member Notification Act. is the official ballot committee.[5]
  • The California Catholic Conference[6]
  • Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger [7]

Arguments in favor of Prop. 4[edit]

Notable arguments that have been made in favor of Prop. 4 include:

  • 34 other U.S. States have had notification laws in place for as long as 25 years.
  • When a minor obtains an abortion without the knowledge of a family member or guardian, her health can be endangered if health complications arise after the abortion.[8]
  • If a minor becomes pregnant because of sexual violence or predation, a sexual predator may be missed, because the abortion clinic may not report the sexual crime.[9]


As of September 27, 2008, the six largest donors to Prop. 4 are:

Path to ballot and prior attempts at passage[edit]

The signature-gathering drive to qualify the 2008 Parental Notification petition for the ballot was conducted by petition management firm Bader & Associates, Inc. at a cost of $2,555,000.[12]

Proposition 4 represents the third time that California voters will have considered the issue of a parental notification/waiting period for abortion. The two previous, unsuccessful, initiatives were California Proposition 85 (2006) and California Proposition 73 (2005).

When Prop 73 lost in 2005, some supporters thought that a similar measure would fare better in a general election. However, Prop 85 did worse. Unlike 85 or 73, Proposition 4 allows an adult relative of the minor seeking an abortion to be notified, if the minor's parents are abusive.

Camille Giulio, a spokeswoman for the pro-4 campaign said that the November 2008 election represents a better opportunity for parental notification legislation because:

  • There will be a higher voter turnout in November 2008 than when 85 and 73 were voted on.
  • Socially conservative voters will be motivated to come to the polls to vote in favor of the much higher profile Proposition 8. While at the polls, they are likely to also vote in favor of 4.
  • The two previous campaigns represented narrow defeats in low budget campaigns.[13]
Year Proposition Votes for % for Votes against % against
2005[14] Prop 73
2006[15] Prop 85
2008[16] Prop 4

Opposition to Prop. 4[edit]

The Campaign for Teen Safety is the official ballot committee against the proposition.

  • American Academy of Pediatrics, California District
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, District IX
  • California Academy of Family Physicians
  • California Family Health Council
  • California Nurses Association
  • California School Counselors Association
  • California Teachers Association
  • Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California
  • California NOW
  • Equality California
  • The Let California Ring coalition[17]

Arguments against Prop. 4[edit]

Notable arguments that have been made against Prop. 4 include:

  • Mandated parental notification laws do not work. No law can mandate family communication.
  • Some teenagers can't go to their parents for fear of being forced to leave their home, abuse, or worse.
  • Prop 4 may force these teens to delay medical care, turn to self-induced abortions, or consider suicide.
  • The reason there are fewer teen pregnancies in states mandating parental notification is that more teenage girls choose to go underground and have unsafe abortions which go unreported.
  • Fear of parents being notified in the event of an abortion is highly unlikely to motivate teens to practice abstinence.
  • This proposition is extremely gender-biased. It is unlikely that any law would mandate the notification of the father's parents.
  • The vote will be biased as those affected by the bill, namely minors, are unable to vote on it.
  • If a teen seeks the support of another adult, her parents would automatically be reported to authorities and an investigation would ensue.[18]


The No on 4 campaign has hired the Dewey Square Group[19] as a consultant.[20]

Donors to opposition[edit]

As of September 27, some of the top donors to the opposition campaign were:

  • A number of different Planned Parenthood affiliates, including the Los Angeles, Mar Monte, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Shasta Diablo and Pasadena offices, $4,485,000
  • California Teachers Association, $450,000.
  • California Family Health Council, $80,000.
  • Committee for a New Economy, $25,000.
  • ACLU, Northern California, $50,000.
  • ACLU, Southern California, $10,000.
  • Susan Orr, $100,000.
  • John Morgridge, $100,000.[21][22]

Lawsuit filed over Prop. 4 language[edit]

Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and others filed a lawsuit with the Sacramento County Superior Court in early August to strike out all references to "Sarah" and "Sarah's Law" and "other misleading language in the voter's guide" for Proposition 4. The title "Sarah's Law" refers to the case of 15-year-old "Sarah" who died as a result of an abortion in 1994. Proposition 4's ballot language in the official voter's guide suggests that "Sarah" might have been saved had her parents known about her abortion. Opponents of Proposition 4 argue that "Sarah" was not considered a minor in Texas, where the abortion was performed, and that she already had a child with a man who claimed to be her commonlaw husband. If this is the case, the proposed law, Proposition 4, would not have helped her, since it wouldn't have applied to her. Based on this reasoning, opponents asked that the references to Sarah be stricken.[23]

Judge Michael Kenny of the Sacramento Superior Court ultimately ruled against the opponents, allowing the original proposed ballot language and arguments, including references to Sarah, to stay in the official California voter's pamphlet.

Polling information[edit]

The Field Poll has conducted and released the results of four public opinion polls on Proposition 4, in July, August, September, and October.[24][25][26][27]

Mark DiCamillo, director of the polling agency, said he believes the current version is running stronger because Latinos overwhelmingly favor it and are expected to vote in higher-than-usual numbers in November.[28]

Month of Poll In Favor Opposed Undecided
July 2008 48 percent 39 percent 13 percent
August 2008 47 percent 44 percent 9 percent
September 2008 49 percent 41 percent 10 percent
October 2008 45 percent 43 percent 12 percent

Newspaper endorsements[edit]

Editorial boards in favor[edit]

Editorial boards opposed[edit]


Proposition 4
Choice Votes %
Referendum failed No 6,728,478 51.96
Yes 6,220,473 48.04
Valid votes 12,948,951 94.22
Invalid or blank votes 794,226 5.78
Total votes 13,743,177 100.00
Source: November 4, 2008, General Election Statement of Vote


  1. ^ San Francisco Chronicle, Parental notification measures make Calif. ballot, May 30, 2008
  2. ^ Los Angeles Times, Parental notification: Again!, May 31, 2008
  3. ^ Stateline, "Social issues crowd state ballots", July 24, 2008
  4. ^ Fiscal Impact Statement
  5. ^ Committee registration
  6. ^ Life News, California Catholic Conference Will Back Parental Notification on Abortion Bid, April 17, 2008
  7. ^ Schwarzenegger on Jim Holman's ballot measure
  8. ^ Los Angeles Times, Op-ed by Margaret Pearson, "Proposition 4 protects girls", October 3, 2008
  9. ^ Arguments in favor of Proposition 4 from the official California voter's guide
  10. ^ San Diego Union-Tribune, Abortion notification backers not giving up, April 14, 2008
  11. ^ Contribution detail
  12. ^ Campaign expenditure details
  13. ^ Hollister Free Lance News, "Parental notice for abortion back on Calif. ballot", October 3, 2008
  14. ^ "STATEMENT OF VOTE, Summary Page" (PDF). California Secretary of State. 2005. Retrieved 2008-11-05. 
  15. ^ "STATE BALLOT MEASURES" (PDF). California Secretary of State. 2006. Retrieved 2008-11-05. 
  16. ^ "Election Results: State Ballot Measures". California Secretary of State. 2008-11-05. Archived from the original on 2008-07-23. Retrieved 2008-11-05. 
  17. ^ Look out for Prop 4 and Prop 8
  18. ^ Arguments against Proposition 4 from the official California voter's guide Archived October 2, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ Dewey Square Group
  20. ^ No on 4 expenditures
  21. ^ Associated Press, "Breakdown of donations for California ballot measures", August 1, 2008
  22. ^ Secretary of State - Cal-Access
  23. ^ Activists File Lawsuit to Strike "Sarah's Law" Language from CA Ballot Initiative, August 5, 2008
  24. ^ July 22 Field Poll results on Proposition 4
  25. ^ California Poll Shows Small Lead for Measure for Parental Notification on Abortion, August 28, 2008
  26. ^ Field Poll: Voters narrowly favoring Prop. 4, the September poll
  27. ^ Voters Closely Divided on Prop. 4 (Parental Notification for Teen Abortion). Two of the Four State Bond Measures Receiving More than 50% Support., November 1, 2008
  28. ^ San Diego Union-Tribune, "Third abortion initiative given chance of passing"
  29. ^ San diego Union Tribune, "Yes on Proposition 4", September 23, 2008
  30. ^ Orange County Register, "Yes on Proposition 4", September 23, 2008
  31. ^ Los Angeles Times, "No on Proposition 4", September 25, 2008
  32. ^ San Francisco Chronicle, "California Proposition 4 would undermine abortion rights", September 18, 2008

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]