So you may have read my earlier post regarding our esteemed General Assembly being a bunch of children throwing a tantrum because the big bad Obama was going to enforce Federal legislation such as centralized healthcare and environmental regulations (when as you know, the official North Carolinian position is to close their ears and shout LALALALALALA I CANT HEAR YOU at the top of their lungs).
So this is basically the same deal. Today, House Bill 693 is slated to go up for a vote in the Republican controlled House. The bill's sole purpose is to remove exceptions for STD testing, reproductive health and mental & behavioral health services from the Parental Consent law in North Carolina, making it so that a teenager can only get tested for STD's or receive potentially lifesaving psychological care with a notarized consent form signed by a parent or legal guardian.
The bill passed the Health and Human Services Committee by a vote of 14-8, mostly along party lines. Since when did the well-being of children become a party issue? Such a bill would make it impossible for teenagers in abusive families to receive any care outside of our already overworked Department of Social Services. Of course, almost no teenager will even think about asking their parents to get tested for potentially life-threatening sexually transmitted diseases. Will this promote abstinence? Hell no, it's going to increase the rate of transmission because, let's be frank, in this highly religious society, a teenager having to admit to their parents that they had been having sex and may have caught a disease would bring down on them a fate much worse than chlamydia. Reform school, isolation, even domestic violence and abuse are potential consequences for some of our children.
Set your jimmies to maximum overrustle because here's the fun part kids: Representative Chris Whitmire, the sponsor of this bill and avid political limbo champion (just how low can you go, Chris?), had this to say about why he sponsored the bill:
We make (teens) wait till they're 18 to buy cigarettes, 21 to buy alcohol... ...With the particular items that are very serious, that threaten their health, they certainly need a parental figure."
Before I go full keyboard warrior, let's take a look at Rep. Whitmire's background. He represents Transylvania County, which according to the 2000 census has a population of roughly 30,000 people, of which 94% are white, 59% married couples, with only 9.6% of Transylvanian citizens living below the poverty line. The population density is 78 people per square mile, meaning that it is a rural area with no urban centers. Clearly, there is a lack of perspective here. But that does not excuse Rep. Whitmire's Republican fellows in the House.
This bill would effectively shutter potentially life-saving facilities such as the WHAT center (Wilmington Health Access for Teens) in Wilmington NC and make it much more difficult for teenagers to receive medical care and support during those vital years.
The shocking thing is that the religious motivation for this bill is completely lost when it gets to mental care. Under HB 693, teens would no longer have access to mental health resources without a notarized consent form. This means that North Carolinian teenagers will lose their ability to seek out psychological care, something that is often overlooked by parents, especially when communication within a family is poor. Not to mention that many teenagers lead essentially independent lives because of work, drugs, alcohol, or the myriad of other situations that may make for an absentee parent.
The most tragic consequence of this bill will be the mental health consequences of this bill. Teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, bullying, depression, suicidal thoughts: these are things that a majority of affected teenagers would rather suffer alone than reveal to their parents, especially in an overtly religious household (as the majority of Carolinian households are). I personally was affected by depression in my formative years and I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful therapist and psychiatrist to talk to when I was going through things I couldn't bear to discuss with my father. I was a stupid kid and yes, there were times where I was downright suicidal. So I will put this bluntly: if this bill was passed in 2005, I likely would not be alive to write this article.
If so much as one child has their life destroyed because of inaccessible sexual, behavioral, or mental health services, how can this bill be justified? I fail to see how this bill could be justified at all. What possible harm could come from letting teenagers see a therapist or get tested for STD's without their parents' written, notarized consent? If you have a counter-argument, please comment below. In the meantime, please think about the harm that will come to thousands of teenagers if they are denied these services because they will not or cannot go to their parents for their notarized permission?
If you live in North Carolina, please call your representative and express your opposition to this bill. There is still time to protect the rights of our most vulnerable members of society.