In an attempt to restore parental involvement in the lives of children, Sen. Tom Coburn (R.-Okla.) and Rep. Todd Akin (R.-Mo.) are pressing for action on the Parent’s Right to Know Act.
Last considered in 2003, the act (HR 3011) would require Title X clinics to provide written notification to parents at least five business days before issuing contraceptives to a minor. The bill was reintroduced in Congress on June 21 of this year and has 61 cosponsors in the House and nine cosponsors in the Senate.
“As a practicing family physician, and as a member of Congress, I have seen first-hand the painful consequences associated with our federal policy that allows children to make potentially life-changing reproduction decisions without their parents’ knowledge,” Coburn said at a press conference earlier this month.
Conservatives have expressed concern that the government is becoming too involved in an issue that should be decided within the family.
“That whole concept violates the very notion of parental authority and the right to protect our children,” said Carrie Gordon Earll, a senior policy analyst for Focus on the Family.
Liberal opponents, however, argue there is more harm than good in forcing parental involvement.
“The government doesn’t know what’s best in any individual’s family. Families are private things, not government things, and should not force communication [between parent and child],” said Marjorie Signer, communication director of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Singer said she believes the government should provide basic services, including accurate and comprehensive information, but not put regulations on those services.
Without parental involvement, however, conservatives said the indiscriminate issuing of contraceptives may give teens the stamp of approval to engage in sexual activity, the agent for what Coburn calls “a recent epidemic” of sexually transmitted diseases in this country.
“We need to be instituting policies that are beneficial to young people,” said Wendy Wright, senior policy director for Concerned Women of America, “and not just profitable to the abortion and condom crowd.”
Many minors seeking contraceptives are not aware of the potential medical risks such as blood clotting, bone deterioration and blindness, as well as other serious health problems.
“Title X clinics are giving powerful adult drugs to young girls in particular that are not approved for pediatric use,” said William J. Murray, chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition.
Doctors make a determination on whether or not to use drugs such as Depo Provera and Norplant based on the medical history of a patient and the patient’s family. But teenagers are often not familiar with their complete medical history.
“To say that a 13-year-old can make an informed decision about taking some sort of contraception is ludicrous!” said Dr. David Stevens, executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations.
He said parents can offer health care providers vital knowledge of the child’s medical history and risk factors that may not be included in a child’s records.