Amongst several controversial health care related bills filed in North Carolina's 2013-2014 Legislative Session, House Bill 693 is advancing to the House floor. On May7th, North Carolina’s Health and Human Services committee passed the bill, which would mandate that minors obtain parental or judicial consent for the receipt of health services including: STD testing and treatment, pregnancy care, contraception, and mental health or substance abuse treatment. The contentious bill proposes repealing current state law, enacted in 1971, that enables minors to consent for these services. The repeal would require a notarized letter from parents of minors for treatment if the parent is not present. Minors without parent or guardian consent would have to obtain a judicial by-pass and stand before a judge in order to access those health services.
The current law states:
Minor’s Consent Sufficient for Certain Medical Health Services
(a) Any minor may give effective consent to a physician licensed to practice medicine in North Carolina for medical health services for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of (i) venereal disease and other diseases reportable under G.S. 130A-135, (ii) pregnancy, (iii) abuse of controlled substances or alcohol, and (iv) emotional disturbance.
HB 693 was introduced by Republican State Representative Chris Whitmire, who states that the bill “strengthens parental rights in their determination of what’s appropriate in terms of their child’s medical needs.” Whitmire further states that if a minor needs STD or contraceptive care, “it reflects a risky behavior that goes down a primrose path that yields these outcomes. It’s very behavioral related.”
North Carolina’s pediatric and medical communities have been vocal in opposing the bill: the North Carolina Pediatric Society, the North Carolina Medical Society, the North Carolina Academy of Family Practice, and the North Carolina Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Association have all spoken out against the bill. Paige Johnson, Vice President of External Affairs for Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina stated; “There’s no question this would have a real chilling effect on young people.” She continued, “they wouldn't seek professional care, and we would see really tragic outcomes from young people from being too afraid of seeking health care.” According to focus groups of North Carolina adolescents, a majority feel they cannot talk to their parents about reproductive health and report confidentiality as their primary concern when accessing reproductive health care.
Currently, 26 states allow all minors (12 years old and older) to consent to contraceptive services, and every state allows minors to seek STD testing and treatment. If House Bill 693 is enacted, North Carolina will be the first state to require minors to obtain notarized parental consent for contraceptive services and STD testing and treatment. The bill, having passed out of the Health and Human Services committee, was referred to the Judiciary committee with more than 30 amendments. While the Judiciary committee has yet to consider the bill, SIECUS will continue to monitor its movement through the North Carolina House of Representatives.
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