Sexual and reproductive health care for adolescents: legal rights and policy challenges

Abigail English
Adolescent Medicine: State of the Art Reviews 2007, 18 (3): 571-81, viii-ix
Laws developed over the past half century have significantly improved adolescents' access to essential sexual and reproductive health care. These laws allow many adolescent minors to give their own consent, protect confidentiality, and provide financial support for the care. The consent requirements for adolescents to receive health care are contained primarily in state court decisions and in statutes known as "state minor consent laws," which are based on either the minor's status or the services sought. Confidentiality protections for adolescents' health information are contained in these minor consent laws, in the federal medical privacy regulations known as the "HIPAA Privacy Rule," and in state medical privacy laws. Other significant laws include statutes providing for the emancipation of minors, court decisions delineating the mature minor doctrine, regulations protecting adolescents' access to confidential family planning services in publicly funded programs, and court decisions interpreting the constitutional right of privacy. Special considerations apply to consent and confidentiality questions pertaining to family planning, contraception, and pregnancy-related care for minors. In addition to the explicit provisions of state minor consent laws, many of the most important considerations are articulated in court decisions based on the constitutional right of privacy and the confidentiality requirements that are part of the federal Title X Family Planning Program and Medicaid.

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