Birth-Control Access Irks Conservatives

Article excerpt

A trio of House conservatives want to stop what they say is a national disgrace: American teen-agers can get prescription birth control - at federal taxpayer expense - without the knowledge and consent of their parents.

"We make laws saying parents are legally responsible for their children's actions until the children become adults," said Rep. Donald Manzullo, Illinois Republican. "But then we rip parents from the equation when it comes to something as critical and potentially dangerous as sexual activity."

Mr. Manzullo introduced legislation last week requiring the 4,500 federally funded family planning clinics to give parents at least five days written notice before giving teen-agers birth control. The House narrowly defeated a similar measure last fall.

"That [program] has led the federal government to be the schoolmaster of iniquity," said Rep. Christopher B. Cannon, Utah Republican and one of the congressmen seeking to end the practice, along with Rep. Ernest Istook, Oklahoma Republican.

But opponents say the proposal would gut the federal family planning program known as Title X. The $203 million program began during the Nixon administration as a way to help low-income women get birth-control advice and other health care.

The federal clinics, run by state health departments or private nonprofit organizations, serve about 5 million women per year, offering them a wide range of medical care, said Tom Kring, spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services. About a third of those women are teen-agers.

"Ironically enough, [the change] would lead to an increase in sexually transmitted diseases, an increase in teen pregnancy, and an increase in abortions," the very things the three sponsors want to avoid, said David Kohn, spokesman for Rep. …