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Planned Parenthood Is Fighting California’s Proposed Ban on Child Marriage to Ensure Abortions Continue


As California advocates call on lawmakers to join the fight against child marriage, a not-so-surprising new opponent of the movement has emerged: Planned Parenthood.

As it is in most states, child marriage is legal in California. However, California and Mississippi are the only states without set minimum ages, according to the Los Angeles Times.

This means children of any age could essentially be allowed to marry if the child’s guardian and the court allows — oftentimes with young girls being married to adult men.

While the age of consent is 18 in California, this rule only applies to minors who aren’t married, the Times reported.

The fight to keep child marriages legal has been driven by Republicans in other states, but the biggest opponent of child marriage bans in California appears to be Planned Parenthood, along with the Children’s Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

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Planned Parenthood’s reasoning for opposing child marriage was rather vague, with a spokesperson telling the Times that it “strongly supports protecting youth from abuse of all kinds” but believes states should “not impede on the reproductive rights of minors and their ability to decide what is best for them, their health and their lives.”

Fraidy Reiss, the founder and executive director of Unchained At Last (UAL) — a nonprofit organization aimed at ending forced and child marriages in the U.S. — rejected Planned Parenthood’s “preposterous” assertion and said that, in many cases, child marriages result in forced sexual relations.

“The idea that banning child marriage — a human rights abuse that destroys girls’ lives — might somehow undermine girls’ rights is preposterous,” Reiss told Newsweek.

“We at Unchained see again and again that child marriage survivors often lose all sexual and reproductive rights, repeatedly forced to have unprotected sex and forced to endure pregnancy, childbirth and childrearing without their consent,” she added.

Do you support California’s proposed ban of child marriage?

The exact number of California marriages involving minors is unclear.

According to the Times, California’s Department of Public Health has recorded only 48 marriages involving minors since 2019, but an analysis by UAL estimated that over 8,000 children were married in the state in 2021.

Reiss suggested that this “inconceivable” gap is evidence that California has been underreporting child marriage cases.

Nationwide, UAL estimated that nearly 300,000 minors were legally married between 2000 and 2018. Of this, 23,588 were in California, which has the second-highest number of child marriages — behind only Texas.

According to their analysis, the average age of the married minors were 16 and 17, but there were still a few instances of child marriage among children as young as 10.

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Most of the minors were female and the large majority were married to adult men an average of four years older than them, the organization found.

Delaware and New Jersey were ultimately the first to set a minimum age requirement of 18 to be married. Eight states followed suit, with Michigan last month becoming the latest state to do the same. UAL is now urging California to join them.

California lawmakers attempted to ban child marriages in 2017 but opposition from the ACLU, the Children’s Law Center and Planned Parenthood resulted in the law simply adding regulations that did little to prohibit it.

Democratic Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris is expected to propose another ban next year, according to the Times.



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