Most parents surveyed felt laws requiring parental notification of minors requesting prescribed contraceptives were a good idea, while almost half viewed a minor’s right to obtain contraceptives without parental consent as a good idea, according to an article in the February issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
“Since 2000, more than a dozen states have considered repealing or modifying laws that allow minors to consent to reproductive or other health care or have considered restricting access to confidential care for minors,” according to background information in the article. Although health care professionals encourage young people to include their parents in such decision making, many organizations feel legal barriers should not obstruct treatment, when considering potential health risks if patients are unable to obtain reproductive services.
Marla E. Eisenberg, Sc.D., M.P.H., from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and colleagues used data from telephone surveys of 1,068 parents of children aged 13 to 17 years. Survey participants were asked whether or not they thought it was a good idea that people aged 17 years or younger could obtain contraceptive or birth control without a parent’s consent. Participants were also asked if they thought a law should exist that requires parental notification when a teen requests birth control from a clinic. The majority of those surveyed were white (88.5 percent), female (67.8 percent), and aged 40 to 49 years (65.8 percent).
The researchers found that more than half (55.1 percent) of the parents thought parental notification laws (PNLs) were a good idea. However, 96.1 percent of participants anticipated at least one negative consequence resulting from such laws, like teens having more unprotected sex, and nearly half (47.6 percent) expected five or more negative consequences. For exceptions to PNLs, 85.5 percent of parents supported at least one, and 29.7 percent supported five to six, with the most commonly supported exception including cases in which an adolescent was abused or involved in incest (67.6 percent). Few parents (15.4 percent) felt teenagers would have less sex if PNLs existed, with even fewer parents (3.6 percent) believing the laws would cause teenagers to stop having sex altogether.
“Although parents may intellectually recognize the need for adolescents to have access to confidential care, support for PNLs may arise from other factors such as fear of unknown others making decisions about their children’s health, the desire to monitor their children’s activities, and global beliefs about the appropriate role or parents,” the authors write. “Educating parents about the potential negative consequences of parental notification could change their support of PNLs.”