- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Most underage girls would stop seeking birth-control products from Planned Parenthood clinics if there was a law requiring that their parents be notified, says a study released yesterday.
As a result, parental-notification laws "would likely increase unintended pregnancies, abortions and out-of-wedlock births," said researchers Diane M. Reddy and Raymond Fleming, both of the psychology department of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Virtually all the girls queried for the study said they would continue to be sexually active regardless of whether they visited a family-planning clinic.
The federal Title X family-planning program specifies that the clinics it funds do not have to inform parents when their daughters seek prescribed birth-control products such as pills, injections and devices. This policy trumps state laws and codes that require parental notification.
However, a bill introduced in May by Rep. Kevin Brady, Texas Republican, would allow states to enforce their parental-notification laws in federally funded health care clinics.
The new study, which was conducted with the help of Carolyne Swain, an official with Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin Inc., in Milwaukee, surveyed 950 girls, aged 17 or younger, at 33 Planned Parenthood clinics in 1999.
When the teens were asked what they would do if their parents had to be told about their request for prescribed birth-control products, 47 percent said they would stop using all clinic services. An additional 12 percent said they would delay or not use certain services, such as testing for sexually transmitted disease or health exams.
The "evidence suggests that requiring parental notification would impede girls' use of prescribed contraceptive services, with the majority of girls continuing to have sexual intercourse despite restricted access to prescribed contraceptives," the researchers said.
They noted that major health organizations, including the American Medical Association, American Public Health Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Family Physicians, oppose mandatory parental involvement for teens seeking contraception.
Confidentiality has long played a role in teen health care, Dr. Carol A. Ford of the University of North Carolina and Abigail English of the Center for Adolescent Health & the Law in Chapel Hill, N.C., said in an editorial in the journal.
While parent-teen communication is valuable, some teens will not seek medical attention unless their privacy is protected, and teens have an "increasing capacity to give informed consent," Dr. Ford and Miss English wrote.
The new study, which confirms similar findings from earlier studies, "will help inform the debate about privacy and minors' access to health care," they concluded.
At a House hearing in July on Mr. Brady's bill, the State's and Parental Rights Improvement Act of 2002, John Heisler of Crystal Lake, Ill., said his county stopped taking Title X funds because it prevented the county from following its parental-notification rules.
He said that the Title X "no-notification policy" allowed a 37-year-old teacher to secretly take the 12-year-old student he was raping to a clinic for injectable contraceptives.
Rep. Don Manzullo, Illinois Republican, who also supports parental notification for birth control for minors, has argued that parents not only have the right to protect their children's health, but are also important to healthy teen behavior.
A national survey, he said, has shown that when there are "high levels of parent-family connectedness, parental disapproval of their adolescent being sexually active and parental disapproval of their adolescent's using contraceptives," it's more likely that teens will delay having sexual relations.

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