Today in Not Being Helpful:
A measure advancing in the North Carolina legislature would require teens to obtain notarized, written parental consent in order to access a range of health services, including testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, birth control prescriptions, pregnancy care, mental health counseling, and substance abuse treatment.
People, we’ve been over this before. Some kids have terrible parents. Some kids have physically and sexually abusive parents. Abusive parents don’t want their kids to receive medical attention, because that puts them in contact with mandatory reporters who might call the police.
The only effect of this law would be making vulnerable kids even more vulnerable and isolated. Infections will go untreated, sexually active teenagers will go without reliable contraception, pregnant girls won’t receive adequate care, and kids who need treatment for mental health and substance abuse will go without. The only people this law would protect are abusive parents.
And the notarization requirement will hassle everyone else, and possibly function as a shaming device for parents whose kids need care pertaining to sexual activity, mental health, and substance abuse. Also, doesn’t that breach doctor-patient confidentiality?
The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Chris Whitmire (R), claims it will simply help prevent “problems” from being repeated by involving parents in teens’ health decisions from the beginning. Other supporters of HB 693 argue that it will help “restore parental rights and lines of communication within families.”
And what happens when those “problems” are caused by parents? Also, you really can’t legislate your way to better “lines of communication.” I’m immediately suspicious of anyone who uses the phrase “parental rights,” which apparently means that parents have total control over their kids, even at great detriment to their health and well-being (for example).
As usual, these notions aren’t borne out by reality:
Doctors and health advocates testified against HB 693 on Tuesday, pointing out that imposing obstacles to health services could ultimately dissuade youth from seeking the medical care they need. In fact, studies have shown that when adolescents are required to seek out parental consent to access birth control and STD services, teen pregnancies tend to go up and teens’ willingness to seek out STD testing tends to go down.
North Carolina legislature, please stop endangering adolescent health.