The minor consent law is anti-teen

The minor consent law, in fact, victimizes the very people it’s supposed to help – teens.

Imagine your 15-year-old sister is having sex with a 21-year-old man. The young man’s main interest in your sister is sex. She contracts a sexually transmitted infection from him. He pressures her to go to a clinic for birth control pills while at the same time pressuring her for more sex and to keep quiet about their relationship. That is until he decides to dump her.

Or, imagine your 16-year-old brother has a drug problem and doesn’t want your parents to know about it. He receives treatment from a doctor who prescribes a powerful prescription drug to treat the problem. Your parents are not involved in or notified of the treatment. Yet when they get a bill for the treatment and ask what it’s for, the clinic says it can’t disclose that information to them.

In Minnesota, your parents won’t be notified of these situations by the doctor; in fact, parents can’t be notified, unless the minor daughter or son says, “Tell my parents.” Minnesota law, in effect, forbids parents from even being notified when their minor receives treatment for an STI, drug or alcohol problem or a pregnancy – unless the child consents. Parents even are prohibited from accessing their child’s medical records in these areas unless the child consents.

What’s sadly ironic about these situations is that parents can be held criminally liable for neglect or endangerment of their child if they fail to provide necessary health care. Yet in some of the most significant health areas – STIs, drug use and pregnancy treatment – parents are totally cut out of the loop.

Why do we have this law? Because proponents argue teens won’t get treatment if they have to tell their parents. Well, a study on this very point was conducted in Israel and found that in fact kids still got treatment even if they had to involve their parents.

There are also the stories of people like Sarah who, as an 18-year-old, testified in favor of repealing the minor-informed consent requirement. She said, “I believe that if I had not had the option to go to the clinic without my parents’ knowledge, I would have had to tell my parents. I couldn’t have handled not knowing the STD and pregnancy test results – that fear would have been overwhelming Ö By telling them about my behavior and going with them to a clinic to get help would have prevented more problems for me.”

Or there’s Catie who testified at age 21: “I continued in my unhealthy lifestyle (when I was 17) because my parents were not aware of my behavior. My addiction progressed from alcohol and sex to weed, meth, heroine and everything in between to ultimately shooting straight adrenaline. I continued the unhealthy lifestyle because I did not feel accountable to anyone.”

The minor consent law, in fact, victimizes the very people it’s supposed to help – teens. It keeps out of their lives the very people they need the most in a time of crisis – their parents – and enables teens to continue self-destructive behavior.

Sarah said she was having sex with older men and doing drugs at age 15. Her parents were cut out of her “secret life” because Sarah didn’t want to tell them. Plus, the clinic worker who prescribed her birth control pills discouraged her from telling her parents. But when they diagnosed her with an STI, the clinic told her they couldn’t do anything for her and said she was on her own. It was only at that point that Sarah brought her parents into the picture.

Proponents of the minor consent law argue that if we repeal this law, it will allow abusive parents to cover up their dirty deeds. Kids will be forced to alert the abusive parent, the very one victimizing them, they say. Well, this argument doesn’t hold up, because under current law health professionals who suspect parental abuse of a minor they are treating must report the suspected abuse to Child Protective Services. So under the current law, these parents must be reported for suspected abuse.

For the sake of teens and their well-being, parents or legal guardians need to be involved in their minor’s medical treatment in the critical areas of pregnancy, drug or alcohol abuse and STIs. To do otherwise is to leave kids in the hands of sexual predators or enable them in self-destructive behaviors and relationships. Ultimately, parents will be involved, but unfortunately it too often will be to help their children pick up the pieces.

Tom Prichard is president of the Minnesota Family Council. Please send comments to [email protected]