Calif. GOP Seeks Religious Push

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger campaigns for proposition 73. AP

Republicans promoting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's four ballot initiatives on Tuesday's special election are hoping a push by religious conservatives to promote the abortion measure could translate into support for the governor's "year of reform" agenda.

With support from religious groups and churches, backers of Schwarzenegger's abortion initiative plan a substantial push this weekend to motivate millions of Christian voters to the polls, as recent surveys indicate a majority of California voters are unlikely to support the governor for re-election next year.

The abortion initiative, Proposition 73, is a proposed constitutional amendment that would require doctors to notify the parent or guardian of a minor seeking an abortion, although girls could seek a waiver from a judge. The measure provides an exception if delay would create a life-threatening risk.

"We've had tremendous encouragement in recent weeks. Thirty churches a day are signing up to have bulletin inserts to get out the vote and remind their congregations to vote," said Gary Marx, a consultant hired by the California Republican Party to help pass Proposition 73.

"We're focusing our efforts on churches that can have the most impact, a lot of the megachurches," he said.

Marx said his group's outreach is aimed at up to 5 million voters.

Some political experts aren't certain that a wave of abortion opponents at the polls will translate into support for Schwarzenegger.

"Democrats can be against abortion just as much as Republicans," said Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and the Media at Sacramento State University. "They might turn out in large numbers in support of Prop. 73, but they might not support other propositions."

The abortion has raised alarm among pro-choice groups, in part because it would define abortion as an act that causes "the death of the unborn child, a child conceived but not yet born." The language raises suspicion that further restrictions would be sought.

Opponents of Proposition 73, including Planned Parenthood, point out that not all religious groups are supporting the measure.

California Church Impact, which represents 1.5 million members of Protestant and Orthodox denominations, says teens might be forced into dangerous options if they are unable to broach the issue with their parents.

The California Church Impact also opposes the governor's entire ballot agenda, calling the special election an assault on the poor and middle class.

Whether members of congregations supporting the measure will also vote in favor of Schwarzenegger's agenda is an open question. The governor has placed three other measures on the special election ballot.

He wants to revise teacher tenure laws, restrict the ability of public employee unions to raise money, implement a state spending cap and change the way legislative districts are drawn. Recent polls show none of the four initiatives has majority support, and two trail significantly.
  • Scott Benjamin

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