Proposal would allow minors to get contraceptives from doctors without notifying their parents in certain cases

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A Utah House Republican wants $2.5 million in family planning/contraception federal money, but getting it from his conservative GOP colleagues may be troublesome.

Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, a family practice physician, has introduced HB254, which would make several changes in Utah law to allow a low-income female minor to get a contraception prescription — paid for by a federal grant — if one or both of her parents are delinquent, and not willing to come with her to a doctor’s appointment or clinic.

It would be up to the doctor to decide if not getting the contraception is detrimental to the low-income girl’s health. If so, she could get the prescription — which would be paid for by the federal grant.

Currently, a minor girl can only get such a prescription without her parent’s consent by going to court. But how many low-income “young ladies” would do that, asks Ward.

Utah used to get the $2.5 million — which is not a matching-grant that requires any state funds. But then the Trump administration changed the rules, and the money cannot go to a clinic that refers women to abortion providers.

Utah Planned Parenthood did that, says Ward. So Utah lost the federal money when PP was prohibited from getting the funds.

Now the $2.5 million goes wanting. Ward says if Utah law is changed under his bill, then other clinics — which do not refer patients to abortion providers — could use the money to provide birth control drugs to young women.

And low-income girls could get their contraceptives with or without parental consent, as long as a doctor prescribes them.

Ward gives the example of one young woman’s experience. She is now in her early 20s, but when she was 17 she was living with her drug-dealing father — the mother no longer around.

“His only real dealings with her was using her as a “mule” to deliver his drugs. No way he was going to a clinic with her; no way she had money to hire an attorney,” to go to court to get a judge to give her permission to get contraceptives.

She and her boyfriend were in a sexual relationship, but she couldn’t act responsibly to plan her own productive future, her family.

If his bill passes, said Ward, “I can tell you Planned Parenthood won’t get a dime from it” — because PP refers pregnant women to abortion providers.

But Ward does expect opposition, and some from his own House legislators.

The arguments are well known, gleaned by from past news stories:

— Some will object because — all medical evidence to the contrary — they believe contraception harms women, even making them sterile.

— Allowing a doctor to prescribe a minor girl with contraceptives breaks the bond between parent and child, even in cases where the parent either won’t participate in the doctor/patient relationship with a minor, or for religious or other reasons.

But very often a minor will decide to have sex anyway, and low-income teenagers are especially harmed in their attempts to be responsible in their family-planning activities with the loss of the $2.5 million federal grant, which would pay for their drugs.

The bill also removes the criminal penalty — a Class C Misdemeanor — for anyone, likely a doctor, who violates the law.

Licensed doctors, who may only write such prescriptions, would still be held accountable to properly assess a minor’s contraceptive needs, said Ward.

If they are found to act inappropriately, outside of his bill, then the doctor’s license is at risk, and he can be sanctioned or removed from the profession.