Texas federal judge rules against HHS program that allows teenagers confidential birth control

A federal court decision Tuesday could make it nearly impossible for Texas teenagers to access birth control without parental permission.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled that Title X, the federal program that provides free and confidential contraception to anyone regardless of age, income or immigration status, violates parents’ rights and violates state and federal laws.

Kacsmaryk’s ruling likely means that teenagers who receive care through the Title X family planning program will no longer be able to do so confidentially.

Birth control pills rest on a counter in Centerville, Maryland, on July 6, 2022.

Birth control pills rest on a counter in Centerville, Maryland, on July 6, 2022.
(JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

“This ruling threatens the health and lives of young people, who may be deprived of their ability to access the health care they need to build healthy lives,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement. . .

Kacsmaryk did not grant a court order, which would have immediately prohibited Title X clinics from providing contraceptives to minors without parental consent.

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Kacsmaryk was appointed by former President Donald Trump in 2019 and is a longtime religious freedom advocate. He has previously worked on litigation to overturn contraceptive protection.

The case was argued by Jonathan Mitchell, the former Texas attorney general who authored the state’s controversial abortion law that banned the procedure after about six weeks.

Mitchell also successfully filed a lawsuit challenging an Obamacare rule requiring insurers and employers to cover HIV prevention drugs.

An illustrative image shows a woman with a birth control pill at her home in Texas.

An illustrative image shows a woman with a birth control pill at her home in Texas.
(Copyright Reuters 2016)

Mitchell represented a father, Alex Deanda, who said he was “raising each of his daughters in accordance with Christian teaching on matters of sexuality, which requires unmarried children to practice abstinence and abstain from sexual relations until marriage”.

In the complaint, Deanda argued that the Title X program interferes with parents’ ability to raise their children according to their own religious values.

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Deanda said she “wants to be informed if any of her children access or attempt to access prescription birth control and other family planning services. And she does not want her children to obtain or use these drugs or services unless she consents.”

Kacsmaryk agreed, ruling Tuesday that Title X violates Deanda’s rights under the Texas Family Code and the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, denying her the “fundamental right to control and direct the upbringing of her children minors”.

A Plan B one-step emergency contraceptive box is seen in New York.

A Plan B one-step emergency contraceptive box is seen in New York.
(REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

Title X is the only federal program that provides money to providers of family planning services that serve low-income people.

Although federal regulations say Title X clinics should “encourage family involvement … to the extent practical,” they are not allowed to require parental consent or notify parents that a minor has requested or received services.”

Clare Coleman, president and CEO of the National Association for Family Planning and Reproductive Health, said in a statement that Kacsmaryk’s ruling ignores “decades of legal precedent.”

“In a family planning setting, it is critical that adolescents have access to confidential, high-quality care from a provider who supports and respects their values,” Coleman said. “Title X-funded providers are considered highly trusted sources of health care information for their patients, and not being able to access confidential care will block a critical path to essential health services for young people.”

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Texas has 176 Title X clinics statewide and served more than 180,000 clients in fiscal year 2020. The vast majority of Title X clients in Texas are below the poverty line and do not have health insurance. About 5% were under the age of 18.

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