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Planned Parenthood criticized for ‘flawed’ parental notification study

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A study funded by Planned Parenthood about teens’ response to mandatory parental notification for contraceptive use is “seriously flawed,” according to STOPP International, a division of American Life League.

The study, which appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association Aug. 14, surveyed only Planned Parenthood clients at 33 family planning clinics in Wisconsin in 1999. The study concluded that mandatory parental notification for prescribed contraceptives would impede girls’ use of sexual healthcare services, potentially increasing teen pregnancies and the spread of STDs.

“The study ignores the effect mandatory parental notice for contraceptives would have on those girls who are not already sexually active,” Ed Szymkowiak, national director of STOPP International, said in a news release. “Such notice would deter many girls from becoming sexually active in the first place. The girls who were questioned were already hooked on sex — and became so in large part because they knew they could get contraceptives at Planned Parenthood without their parents being informed.”

Legislation to prohibit prescribed contraceptives for adolescents without parental involvement has been introduced in at least 10 states and in Congress. The Planned Parenthood study was conducted to see what effect the legislation, if enacted, would have on teenage girls’ sexual decisions.

Among the 950 sexually active girls ages 12 to 17 who were surveyed, 47 percent said they would stop using the clinic entirely and 59 percent said they would stop or postpone testing for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. Ninety-nine percent of the girls who said they would stop going to the clinics said they would continue to have sexual intercourse.

“Planned Parenthood, a big business that raked in $672.6 million of income in one year, has a financial interest in funding and promoting this study,” STOPP’s Szymkowiak said. “If parental notice laws for contraception are enacted, Planned Parenthood would lose a lot of business.”

The only way to conclusively measure the impact of such a notification law, Szymkowiak said, would be to try it out and measure the results over a period of several years so as not to miss the deterrent effect on those girls who were not sexually active at the time of the law’s enactment.

But, he asserted, “Planned Parenthood doesn’t care about the teens or their parents. Planned Parenthood is interested in making money.”

In 1967, the American Medical Association asserted that minors should be able to be tested and treated for STDs without parental notification. In the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, the AMA opposed legislation requiring parental involvement for adolescents to obtain prescribed contraceptives, and in 1988 several national medical organizations concluded that “ultimately, the health risks to adolescents are so impelling that legal barriers in deference to parental involvement should not stand in the way of needed care,” according to the Planned Parenthood study.

The study acknowledges that proponents of the legislation regard parental notification as a way to strengthen parents’ ability to educate their children and safeguard them from the medical risks associated with prescribed contraceptives, while others believe that mandating parental notification would encourage adolescents to use condoms rather than prescribed contraceptives, reducing the rates of STDs.

“Most children do best when their parents are involved in their life, even difficult decisions,” a policy analyst with the Family Research Council, Pia de Solenni, was quoted by The New York Times as saying. “These are grown-up and important decisions, and they need important advice.”

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