A bill advancing in the North Carolina House requires minors seeking treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and other problems to first obtain parental consent.
The House Health and Human Services Committee approved a Republican bill Tuesday that requires minors to get notarized consent from a parent or guardian to be treated for a venereal disease, pregnancy, substance abuse or mental illness. The bill would apply to prescriptions for birth control.
The bill includes exceptions where federal health care funding prohibits such restrictions, for judicial waivers of consent and in cases of emergency. Written consent wouldn’t be needed if the parent or guardian accompanied the minor during the medical visit and gave permission.
Current law requires written consent only for abortions.
Rep. Chris Whitmire, R-Transylvania and the bill’s lead sponsor, said by involving parents, the legislation helps prevent problems from being repeated.
“This bill addresses situations that often time reflect behaviors that led to it in many ways,” he said.
Twenty-six states allow all minors 12 or older to consent to contraceptive services, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive and abortion rights group. All states currently allow minors of varying ages to consent to STD services. Of those, 18 allow but don’t require a physician to inform a minor’s parents of STD treatment.
Joining Whitmire in defending the bill were conservative organizations that argued it restores parental rights and lines of communication within families.
“While making provisions for judicial bypass and federal exceptions, this bill reinforces the longstanding presumption that fit parents act in the best interests of their children,” said Jere Royall, counsel for the North Carolina Family Policy Council.
Rep. Marilyn Avila, R-Wake, said she thinks current law, which has been in place since 1977, has contributed to the deterioration of families.
“I just think it’s an insidious sort of thing when you look at the directions our kids have taken,” she said. “Maybe we’ve created those problems.”
But Rep. Beverly M. Earle, D-Mecklenburg, said the arguments of supporters depend on a picture of family life that doesn’t exist for the youth the current law is designed to protect.
“There’s a whole world of young people out there that don’t have that relationship with their parents,” she said.
Representatives of the N.C. Aids Action Network, Covenant with North Carolina’s Children and the president of the N.C. Pediatric Society argued the bill will discourage children from seeking help for potentially life-threatening problems that could affect others if left untreated.
“The concern is they’re going to suffer, and not only suffer but transmit problems in the future,” said John Rusher, a Raleigh pediatrician who heads the Society. He said the N.C. Academy of Family Physicians, the N.C. Medical Society and other organizations stand with him.
The bill passed 14-8. It now heads to the full House.