Women may drive hours to Haven Health in Amarillo on the wind-swept Texas Panhandle. Haven, one of more than 3,200 government family-planning clinics nationwide, offers low-cost or free contraception, pregnancy and STD testing, and cervical cancer screening to nervous, underprivileged, or both patients in English and Spanish.
Teenage girls under 18 are seeking birth control tablets or long-acting contraceptives. In December, a federal judge determined that such clinics violate Texas state law and federal constitutional rights, thereby ending young women’s access to health care in Texas.
Women’s health advocates and healthcare providers have denounced the conservative judge chosen by President Donald Trump, who is involved in other reproductive rights issues. They call it unprecedented and overbroad.
“We can’t even provide contraception for a gynecological issue,” said Carolena Cogdill, CEO of Haven Health, adding that the ruling by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk 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.” The patient had said her mother would not understand, believing that her daughter was “going to go out and have sex and she just didn’t want to go there,” Cogdill said.
Prescription contraception for teens in Texas requires parental consent. Title X clinics might administer contraceptives without parental consent. To reduce teen pregnancy, Republican President Richard Nixon signed the family-planning act for low-income persons, including minors.
Alexander R. Deanda, an Amarillo father of three adolescent daughters, sued the Department of Health and Human Services in July 2022, weeks after the Supreme Court revoked constitutional protection for abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. He claimed the government infringed on his constitutional right to raise his children.
“The use of contraception breaches traditional teachings of numerous faiths, including the Christian faith plaintiff practices,” wrote Kacsmaryk.
Christian Kacsmaryk said federal clinics in Texas, where state law requires parental consent for adolescent girls to access contraceptives, caused “instant, present-day injury.”
Religious Versus Legal Arguments
The ruling, which cited Catholic catechisms and fourth-century theological writings, shocked legal experts, including University of Texas at Austin law professor Elizabeth Sepper, who claimed it showed conservative Christian theology’s growing influence in the courts.
“We’ve seen religious arguments that increasingly come into the courts dressed up as legal arguments,” Sepper said. “I think we’re seeing a movement that began with a religious exemption, saying ‘Let me structure my health care to suit my morals,’ and we’re moving toward an agenda that says, ‘Let me structure all of health care according to my morals.'”
Teenage pregnancy can change a woman’s life. Half the adolescent moms graduate high school by 22, compared to 90% of non-mothers. Teenage mothers’ children are likelier to drop out of high school and go to prison. Dr. Stephen Griffin, an OB-GYN and assistant professor at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, called birth control for young women a “safety problem” and said many parents misjudged their teens’ sexual activity.
Kaiser Health News tweeted that Girls in Texas Could Get Birth Control at Federal Clinics. You can check below:
#NewOnKHN: A Donald Trump-appointed federal judge agreed that even the possibility that the father’s daughters might access contraception without his permission violated the tenants of his Christian faith.
— Kaiser Health News (@KHNews) March 8, 2023
Griffin claimed that regular churchgoers are more prone to underestimate their child’s risk-taking. Parents who believe they communicate openly with their children underestimate the risk. More than 1 in 6 Texas teens who gave birth in 2020 previously had a child. Following other state limits on reproductive health care, health experts expect the court decision barring contraception from raising those numbers.
“Abortion is illegal in Texas. Kids aren’t getting comprehensive sexual education in schools. A vast [number] of folks in Texas are living without health insurance,” said Stephanie LeBleu, acting director of Every Body Texas, which administers the state’s more than 150 Title X clinics. “So it does make it very difficult to get sexual health services.”
In February, the Biden administration appealed to Texas. LeBleu stated that teens currently have no safety net.
Private and Controversial
Confidentiality encourages youth to seek sexual health care. Texans like Christi Covington believe the law shouldn’t make exceptions even in the most challenging instances. Round Rock is Covington’s Austin suburb. She reared three evangelical children. Despite religious objections to birth control, she felt the family should be honored.
“God designed the world for there to be parents and then we have our offspring and that the parents care for those children, and that is design,” she said. “And we do see that reflected in nature.”
According to National Center for Youth Law senior director of health Rebecca Gudeman, 60% of youth include their parents in such decisions. She said couples like Victoria and Richard Robledo, who started dating as minors, can’t engage their parents or guardians. Victoria said she wanted birth control early on but couldn’t ask her mother, a devout Catholic.
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Victoria located a free birth control clinic a mile from her high school. The married couple has two children and lives in Clovis, New Mexico, across the state border. Victoria claimed she went to college, and her husband joined the military because she was able to prevent conception as a teenager.
“We weren’t worried about the fact that we may have a kid,” she said. “We both were able to go out and live our own lives.”
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