Minn. Bill Seeks Parental Consent for Minors' Birth Control, Other Care

April 19, 2011 — A Minnesota Senate bill (SF 1017) would require parental consent before minors can obtain care related to contraceptives, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and drug or alcohol abuse, unless the health condition is life-threatening, the AP/San Francisco Examiner reports. If the bill is enacted, Minnesota would become the only state to bar minors from obtaining contraceptives and STI treatment without parental approval, although a few states set age restrictions or other conditions for contraceptive services, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The bill would allow parents to access children's medical records. Current state law prevents doctors from providing medical information about certain services to parents, unless the minor consents or the medical issue could cause immediate harm. In order to get services without parental consent, a minor would need a judge to determine that incest or other physical or sexual abuse has occurred.

Opponents of the bill argue that it could prevent or delay treatment for young people who are hesitant to discuss a health situation with their parents. Treatment delays could result in higher rates of STIs, unintended pregnancy, premature birth and other problems, Aggie Leitheiser, assistant commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Health, said. Increased rates of such conditions would drive up health care costs, Leitheiser added.

The policies of the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics support minors' access to contraceptives without parental involvement. Tim Stanley -- senior director of government and public affairs for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota -- said a change in the consent laws for birth control and testing for STIs and pregnancy "would be a dramatic, dramatic change in the way health care is delivered."

The AP/Examiner reports that passage of the bill is "looking less likely by the day" because there is no companion measure in the House. The bill's sponsor, Sen. David Hann (R), disagreed and said he is confident about the bill's chances in the Republican-controlled Legislature (Bannow, AP/San Francisco Examiner, 4/17).