Associated Press, February 7, 2005
parental consent for teen birth control
Author : Sheila Byrd
DATELINE: JACKSON, Miss.
A practice of some teenage girls - getting birth
control from neighborhood health clinics without
their parents' consent - would end under a
bill pending in the Mississippi Senate.
Public Health and Welfare Chairman Alan Nunnelee,
R-Tupelo, said he's filed the bill for about
eight years without the legislation ever getting
out of committee. Nunnelee's chairmanship guarantees
that the bill will at least get a Senate vote
The legislation has drawn criticism from some
groups, including the American Civil Liberties
Union, which describes the bill as another
attack on women's reproductive rights.
The bill prohibits state Department of Health
employees from performing any surgical or medical
treatment or prescribing any medication for
a teenager 15 or under without parental consent.
Among the exceptions are rape, treatment for
venereal disease or if the minor is married.
Under current law, any female, regardless of
age or marital status, has the right to consent
to medical treatment related to pregnancy and
"We definitely see it as a violation of
women's health rights here. It may not be a
legal violation. It's certainly not making
it easy for women to take control of their
own health issues," said Mississippi ACLU
Executive Director Nsombi Lambright.
Nunnelee said he decided to file the bill after
getting a telephone call from a mother, who
recounted a tale about her daughter. The teen
was ill, but no one had been able to diagnose
the problem. Eventually, the teen asked her
mother if it was possible shots she had gotten
from the health clinic could make her sick.
"Her mother said 'What shots?' Nunnelee
He said the mother didn't know the girl had been
getting Depo-Provera injections. The injections
are a form of birth control with side effects
that include abdominal pain and nausea.
"When they are injecting chemicals into
little girls' bodies, it could have very serious
side effects and I think it crosses the line,"
The types of birth control administered by the
Department of Health include education about
abstinence, birth control pills, Depo-Provera,
contraceptive patches, intrauterine devices,
diaphragms, spermicide, condoms and fertility
awareness, said agency spokeswoman Liz Sharlot.
The number of teens giving birth in Mississippi
in 1998 was 8,598. In 2002, the most recent
year available, the number was 7,152.
Nunnelee's proposal is unusual, said Jennifer
Dalven, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive
Freedom Project based in New York.
"The reason it's so unusual is that all
the major medical groups have realized that
requiring parental consent for contraceptive
doesn't stop teenagers from having sex,"
Autumn Pennington, health center manager for
Planned Parenthood in Hattiesburg, agreed,
saying the change likely would lead to an increase
in teen pregnancies.
"It's sad and ridiculous that they would
try to make a law like this," Pennington
said. "It's only going to make the problem
Open since August, Pennington's center is the
only Planned Parenthood office in the state.
Teens 14 and older can receive birth control
at the center without consent. Most of the
center's clients are college students. About
20 percent are 18 and under, Pennington said.
The center provides birth control without a physical
exam, emergency contraceptive, pregnancy testing
and outreach services, such as seminars on
pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease,
The bill is Senate Bill 2106.
<< Associated Press -- 2/7/05 >>
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