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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Having ‘The Talk’ with legislators

    Vanessa Valenzuelacolumnist
    Vanessa Valenzuela
    columnist

    Arizona House Majority Leader Steve Tully was surely pleased last Wednesday when a bill he proposed requiring parental consent for prescription medications received a 6-3 vote of approval from the House Health Committee. The legislation seems relatively harmless on its surface, but holds terribly negative implications for Arizona teens – including underage freshmen here on campus.

    This overreaching legislation is written in such a way that it would require parental consent for birth control and treatment prescriptions for sexually transmitted diseases.

    That doesn’t come as much of a surprise in a state that still funds abstinence education in schools – with condom use as an afterthought for those who are going to have sex or already have. But just because our representatives say sex can wait doesn’t mean that our teens are listening.

    An Arizona Education Department survey from last year showed that 28 percent of ninth graders and 62 percent of high school seniors have had sex. These teens, regardless of how “”wrong”” their choices are, need access to birth control and treatment for STDs to stay safe and healthy.

    In 2004, the number of teen pregnancies reported by the Arizona Health Department was a staggering 14,163 – up from 13,654 in 2003. Though the teen pregnancy rate is declining as a result of an influx of new residents to the state, it is still among the highest in the country.

    Those hoping this legislation will keep teens from having sex for fear of pregnancy are dreaming.

    Even more disturbing than the inclusion of birth control in Tully’s legislation is the barrier the bill creates for teens seeking treatment for STDs. While teen pregnancy most directly affects families, the spread of STDs has an effect on our entire society.

    In 2004, 6,741 cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia, early syphilis and genital herpes were reported by teens. We can only hope that that number is close to the actual number of teens who contracted an STD that year. It is already difficult to get people of all ages to report and seek treatment for STDs without the added stipulation of parental consent for teens.

    The possibility of a dramatic increase in the number of teens who simply forgo treatment for fear of disclosing it to their parents should concern every member of our community.

    The legislation leaves teens with only one option for acquiring birth control or receiving STD treatment without parental consent: visiting clinics or Planned Parenthood facilities that are funded by Title X. The Family Planning Program under Title X provides government funding for such places and states that treatment cannot be denied to anyone, including minors.

    That exception is not particularly helpful, as only one of the three Tucson Planned Parenthood clinics receives Title X funding and many neighboring counties do not have such a service.

    Should the House approve this legislation, now named House Bill 2707, it will create an additional obstacle for teens attempting to be responsible by getting on birth control or receiving treatment for STDs.

    Just because our government representatives say “”sex can wait”” doesn’t mean that our teens are listening.

    That obstacle would be “”the talk”” with their parents – if they even live with their legal guardians.

    In a perfect world, teens would feel comfortable seeking help from their parents, who would be happy to oblige. Well, representatives, this isn’t a perfect world, and every family situation is different.

    While Tully claims that his intention is merely to keep parents informed of all aspects of their children’s health, it appears that the bill’s true aim is to promote a faith-based abstinence agenda.

    Regardless of the motivation, it is not the place of the state Legislature to force open communication regarding sexual activity and choices between teens and their parents.

    Vanessa Valenzuela is a sophomore majoring in economics and international studies. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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