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. HB 693 seeks to amend the state’s existing parental consent law — which already prevents teens from getting an abortion without permission from their parents — to extend to a broader range of medical care that lawmakers have deemed potentially inappropriate for minors.
HB 693 was approved by a GOP-controlled House committee on Tuesday. Since Republicans hold super majorities in both chambers of North Carolina’s legislature, the bill is expected to advance — and if it becomes law, North Carolina will be the first state to require such explicit parental consent for these types of health services. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 26 states allow all teens to consent to contraceptive services, and every single state currently allows minors to seek STD testing and treatment.
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.”
No, it won't.
The bill relies on wishful thinking. One would hope that the lines of communication between parents and children are always good, but that's simply nor the case. Teens simply don't seek out their parents sometimes, and usually because the parents aren't receptive to a teens' sexual activity. 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. That’s particularly problematic considering the fact that the Centers for Disease Control has found that STDs disproportionately affect young people. In North Carolina specifically, half of all new reported cases of sexually transmitted infections occur among people between the ages of 15 and 24.
Current North Carolina law was passed in 1971 and allows a minor to seek health care without a parent's permission for pregnancy prevention, STI/HIV testing and treatment, substance abuse, or mental health. State law requires parental permission for abortion. And 83% of parents thing North Carolina’s current Minor’s Right to Consent law is important. Yet Republicans in the NC legislature want to change it.