Brody: Notarized consent ensures parental rights
A house bill eliminating certain exceptions for parental consent was pulled from the state house floor earlier this week and sent back to the judiciary committee.
The bill would require unemancipated minors to get notarized parental consent before seeking health care services for the "prevention, diagnosis and treatment" of sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV/AIDS), abuse of controlled substances or alcohol, mental illness or pregnancy. The bill would also require notarized parental consent for abortion services.
The bill allows for the written consent of a parent with custody, a legal guardian, a legal custodian or a grandparent the minor has been living with for at least six months.
If the unemancipated minor elects not to seek consent, if all of the people refuse consent or if none of the people who can give consent are available, the minor may petition on his or her behalf by guardian ad litem in district court, according to the law. There is also a medical emergency exception.
Rep. Mark Brody, R-55, is one of the sponsors on the bill.
"I just thought that it's important that parents play an active role in these types of decisions for their children," Brody said. "I think they need to play a role and it's important that they play a role."
Brody said there are some protections built into the bill in the event that the parent is the reason the minor is seeking care.
"There is a way for the child to go around the parents and it does involve the courts, however, in the bill itself they allow the child to actually be represented by counsel (or) they can appear on their own," Brody said.
Brody also said that while the doctor cannot treat a minor patient, they can consult.
"What I would suspect that would probably happen is that there would be some counseling and the doctor may refer someone for counseling or to talk to this person," Brody said.
He said that if the minor tells the doctor they are a victim of rape or incest, the doctor can refer them to the Department of Social Services.
When asked if the notary public would be bound by confidentiality under the HIPAA privacy rule, Brody was unsure.
Detractors worry that the bill will discourage minors from seeking help or force them to take riskier options.
Naomi Herndon, executive director of Turning Point, is concerned that the bill would "Sentence" minors to endure what they are experiencing until they are 18.
"They're fearful of something if they want to go behind their parent's back," Herndon said. "It's because they're afraid something."
"They're sentencing them to having to stay in this unhealthy relationship rather than giving them kudos for trying to get help for something that they know is going on that is not healthy for them," Herndon said.
Turning Point treats people who are victims of domestic violence. They have to refer people under the age of 18 to the Department of Social Services.
"My experience through years of being a therapist and working with adolescents is that they are going to find a way to do what they want to do...all this bill does is it leaves them to their own devices," Herndon said. "It's not helping them to keep themselves safe...I find that very sad."
Herdon worries that the children will have difficulty navigating the appeals system on their own. They could also encounter transportation difficulties or just lack the tenacity.
"They're already made an immensely bold step by saying, 'I need help,'" Herndon said. "That's a huge bold step for anybody, but especially an adolescent."
She is concerned that the minors will then hit a roadblock in seeking care if they cannot go through their parents.
The bill presupposes that every parent is kind and loving, she said.
Brody acknowledged that some children could be mature enough to make these decisions on their own. However, "the law doesn't give them that right," he said. He added that on the flip side, the parents could be sued over a decision the minor made without their knowledge.
Brody said the bill would impact parental rights if passed.
"We would reaffirm the rights of parents and that's number one," Brody said. "Reaffirming the rights of parents will allow parents to have a little bit more direction or influence in some of the moral decisions and social decisions that the kids make and gives them a little more authority to influence the child."
"Parental rights (are) not a bad thing," Brody said. "That's the key point. Parents are held responsible for their children and they need to know what's going on."
A spokesperson with Safe Alliance — an organization that helps people, including minors, deal with issues of sexual assault, rape, child abuse or homicide — said the staff are monitoring the bill and have not developed an agency statement at this time.
The bill is currently in the judiciary committee for the second time, having been pulled from the calendar earlier this week.