April 29, 2013
North Carolina lawmakers, led by Sen. Buck Newton (R-Wilson County) and Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Burke and Cleveland counties), have introduced Senate Bill 675 (SB 675), which would require minors to get written permission from their parents or guardians before obtaining any healthcare related to contraceptives, STDs, pregnancy, mental health issues, or substance abuse treatment. The North Carolina Senate healthcare committee is now considering the bill. The Wilson County Board of Health and the N.C. Association of Local Health Directors oppose SB 675.
Proponents of the bill, which is supported by the North Carolina Values Coalition, claim SB 675 will reclaim the rights of parents to control healthcare decisions for their children. Coalition Executive Director Tami Fitzgerald questioned why parents must give permission for teenagers' driving permits, field trips, or participation in sports, but not medical decisions related to pregnancy, STD treatment, or substance abuse.
In contrast, opponents fear the bill will result in unplanned pregnancies, higher STD rates, and life-or-death situations. Wilson County Health Department Director Felix Meyer stated that many youth are afraid to tell parents or are victims of sexual abuse, and it is imperative for teenagers to get care before or after having sex. Meyer fears the bill may result in higher rates of STDs, unplanned pregnancy, and infant mortality.
Meyer also noted that SB 675 conflicts with Title X funding that authorizes healthcare services -- with the exception of abortion -- for youth, regardless of age. Passage of SB 675 likely would result in loss of Title X funding, which would be a "serious blow" to health departments that provide a safety net in North Carolina communities. NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Executive Director Suzanne Buckley stated that the US Supreme Court has upheld minors' rights to confidential access to contraceptives and family planning services through Title X and Medicaid.