When it comes to state-funded birth control, should minors require parental consent to obtain it? Judging by research about Texas released in the last few days, this condition has led to an increased rate of teen pregnancies in the short run, but a decrease in the long run.
Texas is one of just two American states in which parental consent is mandatory before state-funded contraception can be provided to minors. At first glance, it’s easy to assume that this would mean a higher rate of pregnancy, as teenagers would continue to have intercourse without birth control or with less trusted forms. However while there has been a large decrease in family planning clinic attendance, there has not been as increase in teen pregnancy.
How do young people make decisions about their sex lives? It has to be understood that generally, teenagers would make decisions about their sexual activity based on the expected costs and benefits. Therefore if birth control was out of the equation, you’d think they’d indulge in less sexual risk-taking behaviour. However there is also the issue of “habit persistence,” or the fact that once a relationship has progressed to intercourse, it’s much more difficult to switch back to abstinence.
Studies have been carried out to analyse the effect of parental consent for birth control on teenagers’ relationships. Some have found that up to 59% of young women would stop using contraceptives if parental consent were needed. Smaller percentages said that they would go to non-state clinics, switch to condoms, or continue to have intercourse without any contraception at all. About 7% said that they might stop having intercourse altogether but of these, only 1% expected that to be their only response. And a very large proportion made it clear their parents already knew about their sexual activity, suggesting that this wouldn’t affect their relationships too much at all.
To a degree, the requirement of parental consent for the use of birth control by minors will have ambiguous results. Where pregnancies have decreased however, it is in part due to teens finding alternate ways of obtaining contraceptives, as well as reducing their sexual risk-taking behaviour.
For me, parental consent is a must when it comes to minors. After all, they’re not allowed to vote or perhaps drive but they are acting in a way that could bring a whole new person (and a lot of responsibility!) into being. But the effects could go either way, and in the end what we’re hoping for is the good of young people and their relationships.
What do you think? Should parents have this right or will that just encourage young people to take more risks in their sexual behaviour?