No law can guarantee that teenage girls will talk with their parents. Even about an issue as heart-wrenching as pregnancy.
That is the insurmountable problem with Measure 43. It would require that medical providers give 48 hours' notice to a parent before performing an abortion on a girl age 15 to 17. State law already requires parental consent for younger teens.
In a perfect world, all teenagers would have loving, accepting parents with whom they could discuss anything.
But in a perfect world, teens wouldn't have sex. If they did, they at least would use proven birth-control methods, and they would consider the consequences of their actions beforehand.
Mandating parental notification won't ensure that pregnant girls talk with their parents. If a girl has a good relationship with her mom or dad, she'll talk to them. If she's unsure, she likely will seek guidance from another trusted adult -- her school counselor or teacher, her cleric, a relative or a respected neighbor.
But if she is scared that Measure 43 will force her parents to know, she might postpone getting the medical care that a pregnant girl needs. She might delay learning about her options, including support throughout the pregnancy and potential adoption. If she comes from an abusive home or fears that her parents will react dangerously, she will do everything possible to avoid letting them know.
Some teens might figure out how to navigate Measure 43's cumbersome process of having a state administrative-law judge waive that notification requirement.
Others might flee to a state where they could get an abortion -- perhaps abetted by fake identification -- without notifying Mom or Dad.
Others might take an even more dangerous route, trying to self-abort or seeking a back-alley abortion.
Current Oregon law allows teens age 15 or older to obtain almost any medical or dental care without their parents' knowledge. That should encourage a teen to seek medical attention early in her pregnancy. Even if she thinks she wants an abortion, the doctor or nurse will assess her situation and encourage her to first talk with her parents or another trusted adult.
In the emotional debate about Measure 43, it is important to remember that people on both sides care deeply about teenagers. No person or group should be vilified for supporting or opposing it.
Felicia Bautista, a chief petitioner for Measure 43, presents a compelling story about how she was forced into an abortion at age 15. Her boyfriend pressured her; the abortion clinic's staff didn't tell her what was going on.
No one deserves to be placed in that horrible situation. That scenario should be grounds for pulling the medical licenses of the nurses and doctors involved.
Medical professionals have a duty to be forthright with patients of any age; they have a responsibility to encourage teens to consult their parents about any medical procedure.
But a law, no matter how well-intentioned, cannot ensure that kids and parents communicate.