Survey: Parents want to know if children buy contraceptives

A University survey sampled 1,069 parents of adolescents aged 13-17 by phone.

by Naomi Scott

The majority of parents who participated in a survey by University researchers said they think a law requiring parental notification when a teen requests prescription birth control from a clinic is a good idea.

More than half – 55 percent – of participants thought parental notification laws were a good idea, according to the study published this month in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine journal.

Marla Eisenberg, a University pediatrics professor and author of the study, said the researchers were interested in hearing from parents because previous studies on this issue focused on the perspectives of adolescents and health-care providers.

The survey sampled 1,069 parents of adolescents ages 13-17 by phone in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Mary Pat Rice, associate director of Pro-Choice Resources in Minneapolis, said there is no statewide regulation in Minnesota that restricts a minor’s access to contraceptives.

But in Minneapolis and St. Paul, parents must sign waivers to determine the level of health care their children receive from high school clinics, she said.

Sometimes, students whose parents requested they not get contraceptives will request them. If this happens, the teenager will be referred to a clinic outside the school, Rice said. The students can then get contraceptives from clinics not in public schools.

Jenny Oliphant, a community outreach coordinator in the department of pediatrics and adolescent health, said that when adolescents ask for confidential contraceptive care, they are generally asked if their parents are aware they are doing so. Adolescents who have not notified their parents are counseled on ways they could tell their parents, she said.

Cole Ries, a geography junior and officer of the Maranatha Christian Fellowship, said he agrees with the parents who favor notification laws.

“I feel that the parents should be notified, especially in the case of minors, because they’re under the covering of the parents,” Ries said. “And the parents have a right to know.”

Claire Winkels, a political science senior and an officer of the University Choice Coalition, said parents should not be notified, because one’s sexuality is a private matter.

The consequences of letting parents know can be “grave,” Winkels said.

If teenagers have different values from their families, disclosing their desire for contraceptives could result in ostracism and physical abuse by the family, she said.

Teenagers will still have sex, even if their parents have denied them access to contraceptives, Winkels said.

This could result in more unplanned pregnancies and abortions, she said.