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Texas Judge Rules Teens Need Their Parents' Permission for Birth Control

Jane's Due Process, a Texas-based youth reproductive justice group, told Jezebel “the demand for birth control skyrocketed among young people" post-Roe v. Wade.

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It turns out, Texas officials are nowhere near done inflicting all kinds of cruelty on pregnancy-capable people in the state: Just days before Christmas, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an appointee of former President Trump, ruled that minors should be required to seek parental consent to get birth control because parents have “a fundamental right to control and direct the upbringing” of their minor children.

Already in the state, minors nearly always have to obtain parental consent to get birth control—Title X clinics are the only exception to this, as they aren’t allowed to require parental permission or notify parents about minors getting birth control. Title X is a federal program that offers cost-free and confidential contraception to anyone regardless of age or income. The state has just 176 Title X clinics serving its 254 counties, and teens without access to a car or money to travel may struggle to access them.

But Kacsmaryk’s decision explicitly challenged Title X’s confidentiality policy which allows it to serve minors, arguing it violates the Texas Family Code (which accords parents the “right to consent” to their kids’ “medical and dental care”), and even the 14th Amendment by denying parents’ fundamental rights… to own their children, I guess? Cool!

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In Texas, minors who already have kids still need parental permission for birth control, which may contribute to the state having the highest repeat teen birth rate in the nation. But this rule, apparently, still isn’t enough for anti-abortion activists in the state.

Kacsmaryk’s ruling hasn’t yet taken effect as he didn’t issue an injunction to immediately prohibit all minors from getting birth control without parental permission. Per the Texas Tribune, his ruling is expected to be challenged.

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Every Body Texas, which oversees Title X in the state, has said in a statement that it’s waiting for guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and will continue to provide birth control to minors without parental consent in the meantime. According to the Tribune, most Title X clients in Texas are below the poverty line. Data from Every Body shows about five percent of Title X patients in the state are minors.

This decision from the district court was prompted by a lawsuit from Alexander Deanda, a father of three whose complaint says he’s “raising each of his daughters in accordance with Christian teaching on matters of sexuality, which requires unmarried children to practice abstinence and refrain from sexual intercourse until marriage.” Deanda is legally represented by Jonathan Mitchell, the former Texas solicitor general who’s also the architect of the state’s 2021 abortion ban that was enforced by bounty-hunter-like, costly civil lawsuits designed to bankrupt abortion providers. Both seem like a couple of swell dudes.

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In a statement provided to Jezebel, Nan Whaley, director of external affairs at the Texas-based youth reproductive justice group Jane’s Due Process (JDP), said the district court ruling “violates young people’s self-determination and bodily autonomy,” at a time when “the demand for birth control skyrocketed amongst young people in the wake of the [Supreme Court’s] decision overturning Roe v. Wade.”

Whaley says the decision will carry disparate harm for Texas teens thanks to Texas’ abortion ban and young people’s “especially limited ability to travel out-of-state for care,” all while JDP “hears from thousands of Texas teens a year who want information on birth control access.” According to Whaley, the parental permission requirement specifically excludes teens with trusted adults in their life who may not be their parents, and, of course, excludes all the many teens with parents who don’t support their reproductive decisions.

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Earlier this year, I talked to Anna, a 21-year-old organizer with JDP who sought the group’s help to get an abortion in Texas at 17 years old. Prior to the state’s near-total abortion bans, a Texas law required minors to get parental permission or special permission from a judge (judicial bypass) to get an abortion. She said she only became pregnant after she wasn’t able to get birth control and was denied Plan B due to the state’s varying restrictions.

“All the adults that had the power to help me used it against me, and put me in a position where I would be forced to become a mother,” Anna told Jezebel. Her story is a gutting reminder of what’s at stake for teens in the state post-Roe, and with anti-abortion extremists like Kacsmaryk packing the courts.