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The Tally Ho

Friday, November 12, 2004

Parental Consent Laws = Less Birth Control = More Pregnancy

(sigh) In the State of Illinois, any person 12 or older is entitled to confidential reproductive health care; a girl can get birth control pills, a guy can get an STD test, etc, etc. If a girl is pregnant and younger than 12, she is also entitled to RH care, under IL law. Except, apparently, in McHenry county, where they have found a "better way". Reprinted from the Kaiser Daily RH Report on Thursday.

Ill. County Requiring Parental Consent for Birth Control Publishes Response to Study Linking Policy to Rise in Teen Pregnancy Rate

Public health officials from McHenry County, Ill., in a letter to be published in the February 2005 issue of the American Journal of Public Health say they want to correct a "serious error"
and "misrepresentations" in a study that reported an increase in the county's teen pregnancy rate in the first two years after implementing a policy requiring parental permission for minors to obtain contraceptives, the Crystal Lake Northwest Herald reports (Legue, Crystal Lake Northwest Herald, 11/9). According to the study, which was published in the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health, McHenry County between 1998 -- when the law was implemented -- and 2000 experienced a significant relative increase in its teen pregnancy and birth rates compared with neighboring counties. The study also found that the county experienced an insignificant decline in the relative proportion of abortions obtained by women under age 20 over the same period (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 8/2). However, McHenry County officials say that the study included 18-year-olds, who were not subject to parental consent, according to the Herald. In addition, county health officials in the letter write that the two-year study period was too short to draw conclusions about changes in the teen pregnancy rate.

Researcher Response
However, study author Dr. Madeline Zavodny -- who worked in the Economics Department at Occidental College in Los Angeles at the time of the study and now is based at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Ga. -- said that the teen pregnancy rate in McHenry County over the period studied was higher than in neighboring counties, even without the data from 18-year-olds. She added that 75% of the 18-year-old pregnant women included in the study would have been pregnant minors when the policy changed and women who turned 18 over the study period might have eschewed birth control after their 18th birthday because of "habits formed by the policy change," the Herald reports. Zavodny conceded that the two-year study period was too short, saying, "We'll get a better fix on things in the long term." She added, "But then again, this is very important. Do we want to wait that long to find out if people are being affected?"

Policy History//The policy, which makes McHenry County ineligible for Title X federal grant funding, stems from a 1997 incident in which a male teacher pleaded guilty to several counts of child sexual assault for having sex with a 14-year-old female student. The student had been obtaining contraceptive injections from the health department, which at the time was prevented from notifying the girl's parents (Crystal Lake Northwest Herald, 11/9).

I get needled all the time about this law, which I didn't help make, and I've heard teachers or nurses outright lie to teens who are asking whether or not they can get BC or exams without their parents' permission. I feel like printing out this article and handing out copies to everyone who argues with me.


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