Confidential reproductive health services for minors: the potential impact of mandated parental involvement for contraception

Rachel K Jones, Heather Boonstra
Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 2004, 36 (5): 182-91

CONTEXT: Recent legislative efforts to implement mandated parental involvement for minor adolescents seeking family planning services threaten the rights of adolescents younger than 18 to access reproductive health care.

METHODS: State and federal laws and policies pertaining to minor adolescents' rights to access services for contraception and sexually transmitted diseases are reviewed, and research examining issues of parental involvement among adolescents using clinic-based reproductive health services is synthesized.

RESULTS: Attempts to mandate parental involvement for reproductive health care often focus on contraceptive services and are typically linked to federal or state funding. Studies of teenagers using clinic-based family planning services suggest that slightly more than one-half would obtain contraceptives at family planning clinics even if parental notification were required. Mandated parental involvement for contraception would discourage few teenagers from having sex, but would likely result in more teenagers' using the least effective methods, such as withdrawal, or no method at all. Family planning clinics encourage teenagers to voluntarily talk to their parents, but relatively little information is available about the extent to which activities to promote parent-child communication have been adopted.

CONCLUSIONS: Mandated parental involvement for teenagers seeking contraceptive care would likely contribute to increases in rates of teenage pregnancy. Research that will help clinics implement and improve efforts to encourage voluntary parental involvement is urgently needed.

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