Teenage Girls In Texas Can No Longer Get Birth Control

A federal judge in Texas ruled that adolescents under 18 years of age can no longer receive birth control from Title X medical institutions without parental consent.

By Wendy Hernandez | Updated

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Teenage girls in Texas are no longer permitted to receive birth control without parental consent, thanks to a ruling made by a federal judge this past December. The decision affects government Title X clinics, which historically have offered contraceptives to low-income people, including adolescents, in an effort to lower the rate of teen pregnancies.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk recently ruled that Title X clinics violated both Texas state law and federal constitutional rights. He claimed that the presence of such facilities in Texas, where parental approval is required by state law, constitutes an imminent present-day injury.

According to a recent article in NPR, advocates for women’s health and healthcare providers have criticized the decision, saying that it is too broad and has never been done before. “We can’t even provide contraception for a gynecological issue,” said Carolena Cogdill, CEO of Haven Health, adding that the ruling has had a chilling effect on care. “We had a young lady come in who had abnormal bleeding, and we wanted to prescribe contraception to help control that bleeding. And we couldn’t do it because she was 16.” This ruling has brought the state’s sex education curriculum under scrutiny, with some critics arguing that it’s outdated, while others say that it doesn’t reflect students’ real-world experiences.

Father of three, Alexander R. Deanda, who lives in Amarillo, sued the Department of Health and Human Services in July 2022. He claimed that the government had infringed on his constitutional right to select how his children are raised by allowing Title X clinics to give his daughter birth control without his approval.

Deanda, who is Christian, said that he was “raising each of his daughters in accordance with Christian teaching on matters of sexuality” and that he could have no “assurance that his children will be unable to access prescription contraception” that “facilitate sexual promiscuity and premarital sex.”

Judge Kacsmaryk concurred, saying that “the use of contraception (just like abortion) violates traditional tenets of many faiths, including the Christian faith plaintiff practices.” He also claimed that the presence of federal clinics in Texas, where parental consent is otherwise required for adolescent females to access contraceptives, caused an “immediate, present-day injury.”

The decision, which was based on Catholic catechisms and religious texts from the fourth century, has shocked legal experts, who say it shows how conservative Christian theology is becoming more important in the courts. University of Texas at Austin law professor, Elizabeth Sepper, stated that it is becoming increasingly common for religious arguments to come into the courts disguised as legal arguments. She added that we are witnessing a movement that began with a religious exemption, saying, “Let me structure my health care to suit my morals,” and that we are moving toward an agenda that says, “Let me structure all of health care according to my morals.”

The consequences of teen pregnancies can be detrimental for young women, with half of teenage moms getting a high school diploma by the age of 22, compared to 90 percent of young women who do not give birth as teens. Adolescent pregnancy can have a negative impact on the following generation, with children of teenage mothers being more likely to drop out of high school and wind up in jail or prison throughout their youth.

Dr. Stephen Griffin, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Texas Tech University in Lubbock and a practicing OB-GYN, said that giving young women access to birth control is a “safety issue.” He also said that many parents don’t realize how sexually active their teenagers are. “We know that people who identify as regular church attendees are more likely to underestimate their child’s risk-taking behavior.”