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Texas teens will now need their parents’ permission to get birth control at federally funded clinics, following a court ruling late last month.
These clinics, funded through a program called Title X, provide free, confidential contraception to anyone regardless of age, income or immigration status; before this ruling, Title X was one of the only ways teens in Texas could obtain birth control without parental consent.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled in December that the program violates parents’ rights and state and federal law. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has asked the court to reconsider that decision.
But in the meantime, Texas’ Title X administrator, Every Body Texas, has advised its 156 clinics to require parental consent for minors “out of an abundance of caution” as it awaits further guidance from HHS.
“We hope that as the case proceeds, we are able to revoke this guidance and continue to provide minors in Texas the sexual and reproductive care they need and deserve with or without parental consent,” said Stephanie LeBleu, acting Title X project director at Every Body Texas.
Minors can still access testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy tests, emergency contraception, condoms and counseling without parental consent, LeBleu said.
Kacsmaryk’s ruling threatens the entire Title X program, which was created during the Nixon administration to provide family planning services to low-income women. While Title X clinics should “encourage family participation … to the extent practicable,” federal regulations forbid them from requiring parental consent or notifying parents that a minor has received services.
Kacsmaryk, a religious liberty lawyer before he was appointed to the bench in 2019, ruled that Texas parents have a right under state law to be notified that their children are receiving contraception. His ruling “holds unlawful” and “sets aside” the confidentiality clause.
The case was brought by Jonathan Mitchell, the former Texas solicitor general who masterminded the state’s ban on abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. Mitchell is representing Alexander Deanda, a father of three daughters.
Deanda is raising his daughters “in accordance with Christian teaching on matters of sexuality, which requires unmarried children to practice abstinence and refrain from sexual intercourse until marriage,” according to the complaint.
Neither Deanda nor his daughters have sought services at a Title X clinic, per the complaint. But Kacsmaryk ruled that the program violates Deanda’s rights under the Texas Family Code and the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, denying him the “fundamental right to control and direct the upbringing of his minor children.”