Earth Notes
11:50 pm
Wed February 15, 2006

Parental consent for birth control?

Phoenix, AZ – The legislation was crafted by House Majority Leader
Steve Tully. He said a constituent, a single father,
called him after discovering that his minor daughter
was taking birth control pills -- pills that had been
prescribed for her by a doctor. Tully said the father
just did not understand how his daughter -- legally a
child -- could be prescribed medication without a
parent's consent.

(It's just my view that a physician who sees a child --
these are children, are minors -- for a limited period
of time is not in a position to weigh whether or not
the parents should be notified.)

Tully, who has four daughters, said the policy of the
state should always be to err on the side of getting
parental consent for any medications. Rep. Laura
Knaperek said the problem of doctors prescribing
medications to minors is only part of the issue.
Knaperek, who has six children, said that pediatricians
routinely take children into a separate room to speak
to them confidentially, without the parent, and ask
them questions.

(Are you involved with drugs? Are you having
unprotected sex? Are you having sex? There's a list. I
assume they get it from their association. What that
does is, that sends a message to the child that they
don't need to speak to the parent, that the physician
is interfering between the parent and the child
relationship.)

But Peggy Stemmler of the American Academy of
Pediatrics said there's a very good reason for that.

(Teens will often disclose things to the physician when
their parents are not in the room, things that are very
important to their ongoing health and well being. And
that is an uncomfortable situation I think for
everybody involved. Because the physician doesn't want
to insert a barrier but recognizes there are sometimes
needs to insert a barrier.)

Patti Jo Angelini said the net result could be that
teens who are not willing to talk with their parents
will go without contraception. But Angelini, director
of the Arizona Coalition on Adolescent Pregnancy and
Parenting said they will still continue to have sex,
still get pregnant -- and still contract sexually
transmitted diseases which need prescriptions to treat.

(It's not an issue of that do we want them to have sex
or not have sex. They are having sex. So we want to
reduce their risk of pregnancy and STDs. And STDs is
another area we have concern about. We want minors to
be able to get treatment for their STDs.)

Statistics from a survey last year by the state
Department of Education appear to bear out Angelini's
claim that youngsters are sexualy active. They show
that 28 percent of ninth graders reported having sex --
a figure that rose to 62 percent for high school
seniors. The House Health Committee ended up voting 6-3
to adopt the restriction on prescriptions. In Phoenix,
for Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.