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Court upholds Texas law requiring parental consent for minors to get birth control

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

A federal appeals court has upheld a Texas law that requires a parental consent for minors to get birth control. A three-judge panel's decision largely affirmed a lower court ruling that blocked one of the few routes Texas teens had to confidentially obtain birth control through clinics funded through a federal pregnancy health program known as Title X. For more on this, we turn now to Shefali Luthra, a health reporter for the nonprofit news website The 19th. Good morning. Thanks for being on the program.

SHEFALI LUTHRA: Thanks so much for having me.

FADEL: So what does this ruling mean for teens in Texas?

LUTHRA: Practically, this ruling leaves the status quo of the past 14 months intact, which was previously, if you were a minor in Texas hoping to get birth control without notifying or receiving consent from your parents, you could go to these Title X clinics. Any other health provider in the state would comply with the Texas law, as opposed to federal law, and require consent from your parents. But because of this court case, that isn't an option anymore in Texas. If you are a minor, you need parental consent to obtain contraception, which has raised concerns for some folks about people who, for whatever reason, don't feel safe telling their parents that they are sexually active or for whatever reason need this kind of contraception.

FADEL: OK, for context here, just remind us who brought the case and what they were trying to achieve.

LUTHRA: This case was brought by a father in Texas named Alexander Deanda. He has teenage daughters, and he said that if they were able to receive birth control without his knowledge, that would be a violation of his rights. I want to be clear. He never proved that his daughters actually received contraception from a Title X clinic, but the courts decided that he had a sufficient complaint regardless and heard his concerns.

FADEL: And how are reproductive rights advocates reacting to this ruling? Will there be an appeal?

LUTHRA: That is a great question. At this point, we have not heard about an appeal, and it seems that there is a good reason they might not want that to happen.

FADEL: OK.

LUTHRA: And that's because right now, this ruling is specific to Texas. And we know that the Supreme Court, which would be the next body to hear this case, has had a relatively recent history of ruling in favor of restricting reproductive rights. We know that fairly recently with the Dobbs decision in 2022, and some are concerned that if the Supreme Court were to hear this case, they could issue a ruling that had national implications, resulting in clinics across the country, not just Texas, now requiring parental consent.

FADEL: So at this point, this case wouldn't affect teens in other states.

LUTHRA: That's correct. This is Texas-specific for now.

FADEL: And are there laws like this in other states?

LUTHRA: That's a great question. To my knowledge, this isn't really the case in other states, because Title X is pretty specific that you cannot require parental consent. You have to make every effort practical to involve parents in that decision. But the federal government is clear in stopping short of saying parental consent is required.

FADEL: That's health reporter Shefali Luthra with the nonprofit news website The 19th. Thanks for joining us.

LUTHRA: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Devan Schwartz
Devan Schwartz is an editor for NPR's Morning Edition. He is an experienced audio professional who, in addition to his work with NPR, has worked with such organizations as BBC, Slate, the New York Times, and various public radio stations.