Minn. GOP: Let Parents Know When Kids Seek Care

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A GOP proposal in Minnesota would require parental consent before minors could seek treatment for pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases or drug and alcohol abuse, undoing a 40-year-old law that lets minors see doctors without letting a parent know.

Such a change would set Minnesota apart from most other states, according to one group that tracks sexual and reproductive health issues. And opponents warn the measure could prevent some young people from seeking care because they’re embarrassed or afraid to talk to their parents about their situation.

Minnesota’s current law prevents doctors from disclosing medical information to parents unless the patient agrees or the health issue poses immediate harm. The new proposal also would give parents access to their children’s medical records.

“It seems if you talk to any parent, most would assume they have the right to know about the medical condition of their child,” said Sen. David Hann, a Republican from Eden Prairie who sponsored the bill. “I think it’s a surprise to find out that we don’t.”

Hann’s proposal would make Minnesota the only state to block minors from getting STD services without parental approval, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which follows sexual and reproductive health issues and opposes parental notification requirements.

No state currently blocks minors from obtaining contraceptives without parental consent, although some set certain conditions such as minimum age, according to Guttmacher. The institute said when it comes to confidential prenatal care, 37 states plus the District of Columbia allow minor-only consent or place only slight conditions on it. Thirteen states have no relevant law.

Minnesota’s proposal would allow exceptions if the minors’ condition is life-threatening. Some health care professionals still fear some young people would skip care or wait too long to seek treatments.

The results could include higher rates of STD infection and unintended pregnancies, unchecked drug and alcohol abuse, premature births or other complications and long-term health problems from untreated conditions, said Aggie Leitheiser, assistant commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Health. Each of those would drive up health care costs, Leitheiser noted.

The legislation has been approved by a Senate committee and Hann said he’s confident it will pass in the Republican-controlled Legislature. That’s looking less likely by the day, however, as the bill has yet to see a companion in the House. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s spokeswoman Katherine Tinucci said Dayton won’t comment on pending legislation until it passes as least one chamber.

Tom Prichard, president of the conservative Minnesota Family Council, testified during a recent committee hearing on the bill that doctors don’t always encourage kids to talk to their parents. Prichard also said teens are actually more likely to seek medical help if their parents are involved.

David Aughey, medical director for adolescent medicine at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, said he encourages adolescent patients to tell their parents about their sexual health issues, but there’s a variety of reasons why they don’t.

He described a Catholic high school student who came in for treatment for an STD and uterine infection and only disclosed after three more visits for the same issues that her stepfather had been sexually abusing her for years.

“These kinds of stories aren’t unique,” Aughey said. “There are hundreds of these kinds of stories.”

The bill would make an exception for incest and sexual or physical abuse victims at the hands of a parent or guardian, but they would need to get a judge’s OK before seeing a doctor without parental consent. Donna Dunn, executive director of the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said taking time to go to court might make it impossible to get physical evidence proving the assault.

Republicans have introduced similar legislation in other states, such as a bill in New Jersey that would require parental consent for minors to get medical treatment relating to pregnancy, but none as comprehensive as Minnesota’s, said Elizabeth Nash, public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute. Most attempts to eliminate minors’ consent have focused on abortions.

In states without specific laws, doctors generally fall back on recommendations from their respective medical association, most of which support minors’ right to consent, Nash said.

The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have policies that support minors’ access to contraceptives, and U.S. Supreme Court decisions have upheld minors’ consent to contraceptives and abortions.

Tim Stanley, senior director of government and public affairs for Planned Parenthood’s Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota region, said the group is most concerned about the bill’s language to take away minors’ consent to receive contraceptives and pregnancy and STD testing.

“That’s not to say the abortion piece is not important,” Stanley said. “But that minors’ consent piece … that would be a dramatic, dramatic change in the way health care is delivered.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Joy

    I have never understood how a minor could get transported from school to planned parenthood to undergo a procedure with possible health risks, yet they have to get written consent from a minor’s parents in order for the school nurse to give the child a tylenol for a headache. Doesn’t seem very consistent. I support this bill.

    • paula starr

      you are a very sick, twisted and misinformed person. how dare you twist the facts to suit your needs.

      • LBJ

        It’s twisted for a parent to have a right to be in control of their minor child’s health??? Everything Joy said is an absolute fact. You are twisted. How did the government ever get control of our children. It’s unconscionable that parents ever let let a law like that be made in the first place. Paula, people you you should not be allowed to procreate.

        • Patriot

          Hey, Hey, LBJ. How many facts did you twist today? The government has ALWAYS had control of your children. Look at all the public education, truancy, mandated innoculation laws, etc. for your children. Remember what happened to parents who refused to treatment for a child with cancer?

    • gus

      Joy – you have little joy. I bet your kids would never talk to you about sex.

      • Rusty Shackelford

        Gus, you are a grown man argruing for abortion. You need a talking to.

        • Jerome

          The article talks about STD and contraception. not abortion. Abortion can only happen if the contraception doesn’t work.

          • Joy

            The article may refer to std’s and contraception, but the existing law also covers abortions.

  • smb

    Taking abortion out of the equation…teens are going to be less likely to get tested for STDs.

    Republicans, wrongly, believe this bill will limit teens’ sexual activity when it will only make it riskier.

    • Rusty Shackelford

      You are anti-human, anti-religion, earthbound utopians, and that is fine with me, all of you liberal pro abortion weasels are. But because of this reason, you ALL have a cult-like status and need to be exposed.

      • smb

        I was speaking solely to the other aspects of this article, not abortion. But of course, much like many pro-lifers you assume any sex discussion leads to abortion.

        In a perfect world kids wouldn’t be having sex,wouldn’t need contraception, and wouldn’t need to get tested for STD’s. But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in reality, try it sometime. It’s not really all that scary a place.

    • John

      A very valid point which must be considered. Kids may knowingly live with their infections in order to hide it from their parents. Potential long-term sequelae become an additional issue.

    • reuben

      Thanks for an open-minded comment smb.

  • dmc

    And of course they wil be happy to chat with their mom to say “hey mom – dad has been raping me for the last 5 years and I think I”m Pregnant – which is one of the reasons the move has been to access.

    Folks assume all parents are good, kind, and helpful parents – I think that some of the stories we see on TV and in the papers should have reminded you that is not so.

    • sad

      A child can report sexual abuse to a teacher, counselor, or pastor and they are require to report it. this has no bearing on a parent having the right to know someone is performing an invasive procedure. This is just Planned Parenthood panicking, that a child may keep the baby with parental support.

      • Wilbur

        STD and contraception services are not an invasive procedure.

  • hqr

    Yes the stupidity of the GOP never ceases to amaze me! I guess this means more kids will be walking around with STD’s because they will be to afraid to tell their parents. Brilliant!

    • anonymous

      EXACTLY! speaking from the perspective of a teenager i can tell you that most teens will be to afraid to talk to their parents about things like this. even teens with supportive loving parents wont want to tell them because we will be too afraid to let them down or disappoint them… this will do more harm than good.

  • me

    Uptight Republicans trying to take us back to the dark ages again. This was not one of the reasons you were given power – there was NO mandate for this type of social reordering. I can’t wait for the next election when we will run these close-minded intolerant conservatives back where they belong.

    • DevilDog3249

      good thing that wont happen. Its about time we let parents be parents again.

  • C.A.

    gus and paula starr, that’s not very loving of you, but then again, your lies have come before you, you only really care about those who think like you, how dare there be people on the earth who would like their own childrens medical files be available to them and to have consent for any medical procedures, what evil parent would do such a thing, you guys need help, seek it immediately

    • Odin

      Seems like an admission by Repubs that they aren’t good enough parents for their children to willingly come to them before getting medical help. When did relying on personal responsibility stop being a tenet of modern conservatism? Govt is the problem! – until you want it to intrude in people’s personal lives.

  • Victim Du Jour

    Kids don’t have to hide STD’s from Parents. My dad would have shook his head, but it wouldn’t have been a big deal.

    Just because you have dysfunctional parents, doesn’t give you the right to stereotype all parents.

    • Liz

      Kids shouldn’t have to hide STD’s from parents, but not all parents are as understanding as your father. There are some parents who are very strict and see no place for sex in a teenager’s life. If there is a hostile and closed environment, kids are not going to want to talk to their parents about problems they got from things that their parents forbid.

      And please, everybody, keep it civil. We’re human beings, not politicians.

  • Judy

    There would be no need for this bill IF we parents were able to converse openly with our children about SEX. All too many of us are uncomfortable and feel foolish trying to educate our kids, much less being judgmental if one should get an STD. WE need to be more educated so our kids come to US instead of having to go elsewhere for information and help.

    • silly

      speak for yourself Judy, not everyone is as ineffective a parent as you. You would rather your child dealt with this alone and frightened so you wouldn’t have to be bothered.

      • Fred

        Butt whooping or silence and a disease. Think outside yourself and your perfect worldlittle

  • LOL

    Bet victum is a male…LMAO

  • Victim Du Jour

    Yeah, the same old anti-nuclear family 60’s culture war mumbo jumbo.

    I think most kids trust their parents, and that is a threat to public school activists.

  • sad

    I agree that most kids trust theri parents, who better than a parent has their childs best intersts at heart? It may be true that there is a thug of a parent out there, but we also have laws, as all children know, to protect from abuse. As a parent I know I would want to be my childs counselor on these issues. why should we trust our childrens health to strangers who don’t give a damn about them just the $$$$$$$$$.

  • Artist

    Ah, I guess I’m a little behind the times, but why or better yet how was a bill ever passed to not let the parent know? If a minor is having sex without taking the neccesary precautions, he/she is obviously not responsible enough to see the possible consequences.

    • Derrick

      My dad passed away years ago. The stories he told would lead me to believe kids having sex is not exactly a new thing. Of course he told me these stories later in life. I guess you had no curiosity at a young age when you did not necessarily think through everything.

  • M B

    Having family in law enforcement, I have heard the stories of what some parents will do to kids that “misbehave”. Anyone remember the case in Wisconsin where the Child was kept detained in a dog cage in the basement for days on end? There are others that have beaten their kids viciously (these same people often claim to be Loving Christians too) for misbehaving. What do you think they would do if they found out their kids had gotten an STD or pregnant?

    Those are the types of people that law is intended for, and it happens more often than you would think. Sorry to paint a grey cloud in your sunny little world.

    Yes, it would be wonderful if kids could trust all parents, but the reality is that they can’t always do that. If they can’t then it’s the PARENT’S fault. But, since the republicans are masters of the delusional “it’s not my fault, I’m a good God-fearing person, so there’s nothing wrong with me,” it doesn’t surprise me that they wouldn’t see this.

    Letting the law stay the same would not harm those that have good relationships with their children. If you do, then they are likely to go to their parents over this anyways. If they don’t then the parent need to own up and find out WHY the kids don’t trust them, and be WILLING to address it.

    • Carol DeMerritt

      Very well said.

  • Nancy Aleshire

    Well stated MB. I grew up in an era (fifties and sixties) before abortion was legalized when people would resort to back alley abortions or they had to drive hundreds of miles to states where abortion was legal, such as NY. I also remember when parents would kick their pregnant daughters out of the house and schools would kick them out. If doctors had to notify parents of teenagers, they would not seek treatment and would resort to treating their own conditions. Way to go Republicans for tearing apart families. This law must not pass.

  • Victim Du Jour

    It’s not the 50’s anymore, and I am sure there are examples on the other side too.

    Imagine the horror a parent will experience if they get a call because their child died from a medical complication?

    It will make all you “Pro-choice” people seem like Kevin Spacey in that film where he delivered someones head in a box at the end.

    I like to think kids should feel like they can go to their parents before anyone, and in most cases that is what happens.

    • smb

      Of course there are stories of open and accepting parents. And I hope they vastly outnumber the other. But in reality those aren’t the ones we’re talking about here. They probably already talk to their kids and their kids feel comfortable going to them with problems.

      The ones we are talking about are the kids who don’t have that support. We now should punish them because we want a perfect world where all parents are good.

      Step outside the box and don’t think only of the perfect world you live in. Think of others who don’t have it so good.

      • Joy

        So, because there are bad parents out there who will severely punish children for needing medical attention, we are going to provide for every child the right to withhold critical medical information from their parents? These harsh parents are the exception, not the norm. We as a society just assume every parent has the capability of being harsh because of the awful stories we hear in the news. Well, the same goes for medical providers, including planned parenthood; although most abortions performed on minors are incident free, there are the cases where it goes horribly wrong. Yet, society gives planned parenthood the benefit of the doubt, making excuses that “society” would never extend to parents. Seems like another double standard. Your argument that this bill protects children from harsh parents isn’t consistent. This existing bill does not protect children from medical mishaps, and a parent should have the right to know their own child’s medical history.

        • smac

          laws are made for the exceptions not the norm, remember that. Most people can carry on without laws allowing and disallowing any number of things. Laws are to prevent people from going outside of the norm or what is considered socially acceptable (which is a relative term in itself).

          Personally, I believe by the time children are of the age where these things would be an issue most of your parenting work has been done. One should be encouraging positive healthy decisions and independence, not hovering above and reviewing their child’s medical history for anything inconsistant with their PERSONAL beliefs. If you have done your job up to that point it is a non issue for you. Again, allowing adolescents to seek medical care without parental consent here is for, most importantly, the health of the child; and for those exceptions (although i disagree that the majority of kids will have an open conversation with their parents on such personal matters) who would avoid seeking parents consent and, if it was required, not seek treatment or even worse seek some “back alley” form of treatment such as ordering meds from the internet or trying to buy antibiotics from someone illegally.

        • smb

          “So, because there are bad parents out there who will severely punish children for needing medical attention, we are going to provide for every child the right to withhold critical medical information from their parents?”


          and again you go right to the abortion issue. Should a young adult be able to be tested for an STD without their parents’ consent?

  • Barbara Harrison

    There should be a middle ground….since parents are paying for medical care, it would seem that they should have access to their kid’s medical care, unless there are circumstances that would make that dangerous for the kid. Right now it is hard for parents to get any information at all.

  • SJMc

    It is not the 50’s, but you do seem to live in a bubble!
    Even IF one has a good relationship with his or her parent, that does not always mean he/she feels comfortable speaking to a parent about these issues. This allows teens to be responsible for their health, and yes, probably mistakes, and seek services that are necessary to prevent further health complications or unwanted pregnancies.
    NOT everyone grows up in a loving and supportive home. Passing this bill further denies access to the least privileged people in our country. It WILL cause increased instance of STDs, unplanned pregnancies, and teen pregnancy. It WILL in turn drive up the cost of health care…and that includes for YOU too!
    If there is lack of communication and trust between child and parent, that is the parent’s fault. Current law seeks to protect those who are less fortunate and to make sure we ALL don’t pay the price in the long run.
    How is it that a small portion of people, who are un-educated about health, wellness, and health care, are making decisions that un-do all the hard work so many have done to change this reactive view that encompasses Americans? We need to PREVENT disease, NOT REACT to it!

  • Rusty Shackelford

    Liberals are selfish, they cast aside their unwanted human disease.

    • smb

      And Republicans are the party of ‘Do as I say Not as I Do’.

      Look no further than their abstinence spokesperson.

    • smac

      I’m curious how allowing medical care without the consent of someone other than who is going to receive the care is selfish? I would consider it selfish to deny care to someone because the parent would like to be informed and then permitted to say if they will allow treatment or not.

      Another thing that I’m curious about….who wants disease?

      Let’s try and keep the comments objective, regarding the topic, and, by all means, avoid the name calling.

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  • smac

    Those of you arguing in support of this bill have a very narrow view on life. First of all, those that have said planned parenthood is out for money is terribly misinformed. Planned parenthood serves the underprivileged and those of lower socio-economic status. Not exactly the group to make tons of cash off of, unless you are wal-mart. Again, the GOP is unable to see outside of their own little world or whatever junk FOX news has been feeding them.

    I work in public health and disease control. I speak with people who are diagnosed with STD’s. Grown adults are often not able to speak openly about their infections, don’t notify partners, etc. This is due to the social stigma. People feel ashamed, dirty, and that their relationships with others will be destroyed. An adolescent would feel the same. Most do not want ANYONE to know about it.

    Kids do not speak to even good parents about some things, especially these things. Do not be a blind parent. Honest kids with good parents do not share everything. Let’s not be naive here. Consent here could be considered implied. what parent would not consent to medical treatment for these issues, abortion aside.

    Imagine as a good parent your child comes to you and says she thinks she has had an STD for a few months but was scared to talk to you. She felt ashamed and that she was a disappointment. You give her consent to be treated and come to find out that due to the length of the infection she has pelvic inflammatory disease and scarring in her falopian tubes, so may be infertile. No grandchildren for you.

    Even if this is an just an abortion issue for you, you cannot attack abortion with a carpet bomb.

  • MN Parent

    I would like to think that I’m one of the good parents and that my children would come to me. They have never been beat, know they are loved and accepted, etc. However, I don’t know that they would. They certainly could, but due to the sensitivity and stigma, I’m not so sure. That being said, I would MUCH rather my kids go and receive treatment than not – even if I am not made aware. Their health and well-being is my priority. If they don’t feel comfortable with me, that is clearly an issue, however, some kids just think their parents will “kill them”, even if that isn’t the case.

    • smac

      great point, MN parent.

      I think some parents get lost in their own self importance to see how the priorities should line up here.

      Parents want to stay involved and i have no qualms with that, but parents need to realize that any obstacle to healthcare for their child is not positive for anyone.

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