WASHINGTON – Federally financed health clinics would have to notify parents whose children try to obtain contraceptives at the clinics, under a bill introduced in Congress on Tuesday.
The legislation was introduced in the Senate by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and in the House by Republican Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri. Under the bill, clinics would have to tell parents five business days before contraceptives are dispensed to minors at any of 4,400 federal Title X clinics across the nation.
The clinics provide medical and reproductive services to 5 million poor and uninsured women. Congress spent $286 million in fiscal 2005 on Title X clinics. In the Senate, the bill has nine other sponsors, including Republican Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma.
“Parents deserve to know if their children are being offered prescription contraceptives and children deserve to have their health care protected,” Akin said. “It’s that simple.”
Planned Parenthood Federation of America disputes Coburn’s statement that family planning encourages unintended teen pregnancies.
“This legislation puts youth at risk for unintended pregnancies, abortion and sexually transmitted diseases,” said Karen Pearl of the federation. “This bill drives young people away from contraceptives but they will still have sex. Senator Coburn is pursuing an ideological agenda and he is patently wrong.”
Among single-parent teens aged 15-19, publicly funded family planning prevents 385,800 unintended pregnancies, 154,700 teenage births and 183,300 abortions, according to Planned Parenthood.
The federation also estimates that over the last 20 years, Title X funds have helped prevent 5.5 million adolescent pregnancies. The bill would provide an exemption for married teens. Oklahoma and Missouri are among 21 states that allow married minors to consent to contraceptive services, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which researches reproductive issues. Laws differ in other states.