SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Catholic bishops of California are backing proposed ballot measures to require parental notification before a minor's abortion and to end use of the death penalty in the state.
The endorsement, contained in a statement posted Jan. 10 on the website of the California Catholic Conference, marks a departure from the bishops' long-standing policy of not taking a stand on potential initiatives until they have qualified for the state ballot.
But the "convergence" of the two proposed initiatives presents "a unique teaching moment on life and family," the bishops said.
"These two initiatives have appeared at the same time on the political landscape and bring into sharp focus important moral issues, namely our society's treatment of nascent life, family life and even a sinful or errant life," they added. "In keeping with our fundamental principles, we believe that social policy should respect and support the role of parents in caring for their children. Justice should uphold human dignity as it protects the community."
The bishops said both initiatives were "responsible efforts to bring common sense, compassion and prudent justice into California's public policy."
The organizers of each initiative drive must collect 504,760 valid signatures of registered voters in California in order for the issue to be placed on the ballot. As of February 2011, there were an estimated 17.2 million registered voters in the state.
As proposed, the parental notification initiative would require any girl age 12-17 to tell her parents at least 48 hours before having an abortion.
"Because current law allows secrecy for 'confidential medical services' a young girl could have multiple abortions -- at state expense -- without her parents' knowledge," the bishops' statement said. "Not only are her parents still responsible for her medical and emotional needs if she suffers complications from the abortion, but current policy denies them accurate information as to how best to care for her."
The second initiative -- labeled SAFE California by its sponsors, for Savings, Accountability and Full Enforcement -- would replace use of the death penalty in the state with sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
"As citizens, we find the use of the death penalty unnecessary, impractical and expensive," the bishops said. "We have long held that the use of the death penalty is no longer necessary to protect the community."