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.”
But women’s health advocates point out that not every teen lives in a family that has healthy lines of communication, and the policy could be disastrous for minors in abusive households. “Here’s the bottom line: Everybody wants teenagers to talk to their parents, but public policy is not based on ideal families,” Paige Johnson, the vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, told the Huffington Post. “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.”
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. 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.
According to a recent poll by the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina, parents actually overwhelmingly support giving minors full access to confidential medical services. That support cuts across party lines: 93 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of Republicans, and 79 percent of independents favor the state’s current Minor’s Right to Consent law that allows youth to obtain sexual health resources without getting explicit permission from their parents.
The full House was scheduled to vote on HB 693 on Wednesday, but the legislation was sent back to committee in the early afternoon before coming to a vote.