Miller and Johnson: Law requiring parental notification before abortions would make matters worse

Houston Chronicle

January 21, 2014

First, in a state with one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation, the vast majority of public school districts don’t teach students about birth control in sex education classes. In addition, family planning services for low-income women are still struggling to recover from draconian public funding cuts in 2011 that forced the closure of at least 56 health clinics across the state. One legislator that year even boasted that he and his colleagues were engaged in a “war on birth control.”

In addition, mandatory waiting periods, a requirement for invasive sonograms and other measures have placed obstacles between patients seeking abortion care and their doctors. Last year, the Legislature passed – over the objections of medical and public health experts – even more burdensome regulations that forced about one-quarter of the state’s abortion clinics to close.

While those policies affect people of all ages, the state’s existing parental notification and consent laws specifically target young people – who already have a more difficult time making arrangements and finding funds for abortion care. Following passage of Texas’ parental notification law, a report in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2006 found that pregnant 17-year-olds were more likely to seek abortions in the second trimester, when the risk of complications is higher. The decreasing number of reproductive health care options for young people in South Texas also is likely to lead more to cross state borders or leave the country to find access to abortion services.