Idaho teenagers would need a parent’s written consent to get contraceptives, under legislation that cleared a House committee Monday.
Such restrictions have been unconstitutional since a 1977 U.S. Supreme Court decision. If the Legislature passes the bill anyway, the state could lose $1.1 million in federal money that pays for family planning services for 31,000 poor adult women.
House Speaker Mike Simpson, sponsor of the bill, said the federal government shouldn’t tell states what to do. “We ought to tell them to sit on their million dollars,” he told the House State Affairs Committee.
According to a 1995 survey, no state required parental consent for minors to obtain contraceptives.
Simpson’s bill, supported by the Idaho Christian Coalition, also requires a parent’s consent before a minor can get an abortion. But much of the debate in the committee Monday focused on other provisions of the bill. It would require parental consent before a minor could receive any prescription or other medical service.
If a parent or guardian isn’t available, physicians or dentists couldn’t proceed unless the minor’s health would be endangered both seriously and permanently.
Rep. Jim Stoicheff, D-Sandpoint, said, “I don’t think any doctor should turn down taking care of someone who’s sick just because of ‘permanently.’ … That’s ridiculous.”
Stoicheff and Rep. June Judd, D-St. Maries, voted against the bill while Rep. Jeff Alltus, R-Hayden, voted for it. The committee’s vote was 12-8 - much closer than the votes on two previous pieces of anti-abortion legislation.
“I think it’s going too far,” Judd said afterward. “We have so many teenagers now who aren’t living with their parents. It just opens up a whole new concern.”
Dick Schultz, administrator of the state Division of Health, said Idaho receives $1.1 million in unmatched federal money each year under Title 10 of the federal Public Health Service Act. The state Department of Health and Welfare contracts with the state’s seven public health districts to use the money to provide family planning services to poor women.
The programs served 38,000 women last year, 31,000 of whom were poor women over the age of 18.
“We’re not going to argue the approach they want to take with adolescents,” Schultz said after the hearing, “but losing the access for 31,000 women to receive pregnancy prevention services is what we want to make the committee aware of.”
Schultz said Utah was denied Title 10 funds in a 1984 U.S. District Court ruling because it passed a parental consent law regarding contraceptives. The court found that the state law violated Congress’ intent when it approved the funds.
The Utah law then was invalidated.
Schultz said Idaho Health and Welfare just learned of the implications of the bill on Friday. The measure also may affect Idaho’s Medicaid funding, he said.
“We’ll probably end up in court over this one, if it passes,” he said.
Alltus said he’s for the bill. “It’s not like it was in the ‘60s, where you might get V.D. You can get AIDS and die today. That’s my worry when you give a child birth control pills.”
Alltus added, “We shouldn’t let the federal government push us around. We should do what we think is right.”
The law would apply to any contraceptives that need a doctor’s prescription. That includes birth control pills, diaphragms and other devices that a doctor must prescribe.
Minors who are unable to get a parent’s consent could seek a judge’s order, and if denied, they could appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court.
But Simpson said he agreed with opponents that it was unlikely a teenager seeking contraceptives would do that. Nevertheless, he said he thought the court bypass option made the bill constitutional.
The bill makes exceptions for minors who want to donate blood, those seeking treatment for drug addiction and those being treated for contagious diseases.
Simpson said the full House likely will vote on the bill, along with two other major pieces of abortion legislation, on Thursday.