Virginia Panel Narrowly Votes Down Parental Notification Bill
January 24, 2003
A Virginia House committee narrowly voted down a bill Thursday that would have required public health clinics to notify the parents of minors requesting contraceptives, pregnancy tests or STD treatment. The bill, sponsored by Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William), failed on an 11-10 vote after Democrats unsuccessfully tried to table it. However, the Republican swing voter against the proposal, Jeannemarie Devolites (R-Fairfax), said she would support reviving an alternate version of the bill in the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee next week with slight modifications.Adapted from:
The bill would have augmented the state's parental notification law for minors seeking abortions by also making notification mandatory for public services related to STDs, pregnancy, illegal drug use, promiscuous sexual behavior and mental illness. The bill would require employees of public health facilities to inform parents when dispensing contraceptives or when treating teenagers for depression and suicidal thoughts.
"Any time you have kids who are engaged in risky sexual behavior that is life-threatening," Lingamfelter said, "it is very, very important that parents are aware of that condition so that they can involve themselves in a positive, not a threatening, way."
"Mandatory parental notification is not good public health practice," said Casey Riley, director of the Virginia Department of Health's HIV/STD division. "What you're going to do is drive these kids away. If they're infected, they could develop complications. They also continue to transmit the disease." Riley said STD cases, including HIV, are down across Virginia. "That's why this bill is so untimely," he said. "If we're seeing decreases, it means the system is working."
Devolites said she wants to see any revised piece of legislation loosen the restrictions for contraceptives, making parental notification only required for the morning-after pill. By including all contraceptives in the bill, she said, the state could see a dramatic increase in unwanted pregnancies and abortions. Mental health advocates also argued for an exemption, which Lingamfelter supported, for children seeking treatment who may be subject to physical or mental abuse if their parents find out.