Symposium

Article excerpt

Q: Do parents always have a right to know when their teen is seeking birth control?

YES: Tear down the federally mandated wall of secrecy between parents and young children.

It is every parent's nightmare: Unbeknownst to you, your 12-year-old daughter secretly and repeatedly is being raped by her teacher. The teacher takes your child to a federally funded birth-control clinic to be injected with highly controversial contraceptives. His goal: to continue to assault her without fear of pregnancy.

Horrifying? It gets worse. Because the clinic is federally funded, its employees are not required to alert you. In fact, they can't. The federal government prohibits the clinic from telling parents their child is receiving prescription contraceptive drugs and devices. In this case, the clinic regularly is injecting your young daughter with Depo Provera, a powerful prescription contraceptive that increases the chances of developing breast cancer, blood clots and even strokes in young users.

The hormone is so powerful it has been used in some states to castrate convicted rapists. This time, however, the drug is not used on a rapist but by a rapist. The result: The teacher successfully hides the fact that he is preying on your daughter. The sexual assaults continue for the next year-and-a-half. Numerous shots are administered to your young daughter, who silently relents to an ever-increasing risk of dangerous side effects and emotional trauma.

Through it all, you know nothing. At her age the child is too scared to tell you. Believe it or not, the law of the land prevents you, the parent, from being told.

It sounds so disturbing it can't be true, can it? Sadly, it is. Real parents lived this nightmare in Illinois in 1997. And unbeknownst to most parents, this scene may be occurring all across America.

One of America's more disturbing secrets is that Washington has erected an impenetrable federal wall between parents and their minor children who receive prescription contraceptive drugs and devices from federally funded clinics. It doesn't matter if your child is 9 years old or 16. It doesn't matter if she is receiving a surgically implanted intrauterine device (IUD) or Norplant at age 13. Unbelievably, from the federal-government's standpoint you, the parent, must be kept in the dark. At a time in their young life when children need your help and guidance the most, Washington regulations block you from having a say in their health-care decisions.

The federal government doesn't believe you have earned the right to be informed. How can this happen? Well, some federal bureaucrat decided in the early 1970s that kids should be counted as "poor" as far as federal family-planning programs are concerned. Thus, by federal regulation, not law, clinics are required to keep it a secret when a teenager seeks contraceptive services.

Girls as young as 9 can and must be served by clinics distributing federally funded contraception. And, as we saw in Texas, if a state or a local community objects, too bad. Federal regulations trump state laws and parents have no say in the health decisions of their daughters even when those decisions can lead to increased risk of cancer, blood clots and strokes. That is outrageous.

Washington uses a heavy hand to enforce this wall of secrecy, quickly yanking funding from clinics that don't toe the line and threatening states that challenge their ironclad rules.

Ironically, states strive hard to protect young children from alcohol and drugs, from purchasing tobacco, getting a tattoo or driving a car at an early age. Schools require parental consent for field trips and suspend students who merely bring aspirin to school. Yet when the same states fight to ensure parents give their consent or at least be notified before their young daughter is injected with prescription contraceptives, Washington overrules them. …