Don’t Require Parental Consent for Sensitive Teen Health Care

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Target: Chris Whitmire, North Carolina State Representative

Goal: Don’t require written parental consent for teenagers to see a doctor regarding sensitive issues of sexual and mental health

The North Carolina legislature has proposed a bill that would require teens to get notarized, written parental consent to see a doctor for a range of sensitive health issues involving sexual health and mental health. This bill is not only invasive, but may prevent teens from seeking necessary medical care for fear of retribution from their parents. Protect teenagers’ ability to receive proper medical care: implore the North Carolina legislature to drop this invasive bill.

The measure, which was recently passed by the House, would require that teens receive a note of consent in order to receive testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, birth control prescriptions, pregnancy care, mental health counseling, and substance abuse treatment among other things. Lawmakers have deemed these services “potentially inappropriate for minors” and the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Chris Whitmire (R), claims that involving parents in their teenagers decisions from the beginning will prevent “problems” from ever occurring. Though parent-teen communication is ideal, it is not always a reality. Planned Parenthood’s Paige Johnson raises an important point: “What if there’s something happening in the home, some kind of abuse going on? If teenagers can’t talk to their parents for whatever reason about their pregnancy or their STD or their substance abuse, they need to be able to access professional care.”

In fact, there is a direct correlation between required parental consent and teen pregnancy – a study completed by Dr. Madeline Zavodny proves that when parental consent is required, teen pregnancies go up and teens’ willingness to seek out STI testing or treatment goes down. Not only would teens need consent from their parents, they would then have to go to their public notary to get the note approved. Even teens who have no problem asking their parents for consent may worry that peers or other members of their community will see them at the notary and draw conclusions about their mental or sexual health. Seeking out proper medical care should not be an embarrassing or complicated process for teens, rather they should be praised for being conscientious and responsible.

This bill is dangerous for the health and safety of North Carolina teens. It makes an already daunting and emotional process far more complicated and lengthy. No other state requires teens to get consent to get STI testing, and many allow teens to get mental and sexual health treatment without parental consent – for good reason. Ask North Carolina legislators to come to their senses and drop this dangerous and illogical bill.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Chris Whitmire,

Your recently proposed bill that requires teens to receive consent for sensitive sexual and mental health treatment is illogical and dangerous. Studies prove that teens are far less likely to seek treatment if they need their parents’ consent beforehand, leading to an increase in STIs and teen pregnancy.

In addition to this, teens who are willing to seek parental consent may be deterred by the embarrassing and complicated process of notarization. Teens are already unlikely to seek out medical care; this bill only adds more roadblocks in the process. Statistics that point towards the problems with this bill as well as medical professionals advising against it are things that should not be ignored. I ask you to please remove this dangerous bill from the legislature.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: pengrin via Flickr

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