- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Most parents know that their underage teen daughters use family- planning services, and most teens say they would continue to use clinic services even if their parents had to be told of their visits, a study released today says.

Despite this “good news,” there is evidence that if family-planning clinics were forced to tell parents about their children’s visits, there would be an increase in risky or unsafe sexual behavior, Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) researcher Rachel Jones said in a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

About 40 percent of minor teenage girls didn’t tell their parents that they went to a family-planning clinic, and most of these teens likely would avoid clinics — and prescription birth control — if parental notification were required, Miss Jones said. She and AGI colleagues surveyed 1,526 minor teens who visited family-planning clinics in 33 states.

“We found that one in five teens, or 18 percent, said they would have unsafe sex if parental notification were required,” Miss Jones said. This means that “mandated parental-involvement laws wouldn’t discourage kids from having sex — but would ultimately increase rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.”

Supporters of parental-notification laws were not swayed by the study.

The AGI study comes to a hypothetical conclusion and even concedes there is no way to know how teens would “actually respond” if parental-notification laws were implemented, said Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America, a traditional values group that thinks parents should be notified before federal Title X funds can be used to prescribe contraceptives for minors.

“If anything, this study shows that parents want to be involved and minors want their parents involved,” said Pia de Solenni of the Family Research Council, which also supports parental notification.

These things, “plus the fact that parents are legally responsible for their children and have a right to know and be involved in these [family-planning] decisions,” are all reasons to support parental-notification laws, she said.

Typical family-planning clinics, including those funded by the federal Title X program, provide services to minors confidentially, although family participation may be encouraged. Only Texas, Utah and McHenry County in Illinois require parental notification for minors seeking a prescription for birth control, the AGI study said.

In the AGI study, 60 percent of teens surveyed said their parents knew they had visited a family-planning clinic. About a quarter of these teens said their parents had recommended they visit the clinic.

The teens then were asked what they would do if the clinics had to tell parents about their visits. Multiple answers were allowed. Fifty-nine percent said they would still go to a clinic, and 46 percent said they would turn to over-the-counter contraception, such as condoms. Eighteen percent said they would engage in sex without a contraceptive product, and 7 percent said they would “stop having sex.”

Of teens whose parents didn’t know they had gone to a clinic, only 30 percent said they would go to a clinic if their parents had to be told. More than 60 percent said they would turn to over-the-counter contraceptives.

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