AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Family medicine specialists and reproductive health advocates have raised concerns after an Amarillo-based federal judge issued a ruling that requires parental consent for birth control.
The ruling targets the Department of Health and Human Services Family Planning Program, known as Title X. The program has provided free and confidential birth control since 1970, but it prohibited clinics from requiring parental consent before offering care to minors. Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk struck down that prohibition in a late December ruling.
“Parental rights in the care, custody, and control of their children include the right to direct a child’s medical care — which includes the right to consent to contraception,” his judgment reads. “The Defendants are violating [the plaintiff parent’s] rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”
One Austin-based family medicine specialist said the ruling will lead to more unintended pregnancy and exclude birth control as a treatment for conditions not related to pregnancy.
“It’s important and wonderful if minors are talking to their parents about their sexual and reproductive healthcare, but that is not the case for everyone,” family medicine specialist Dr. Jessica Rubino said. “This is unsafe when you basically tell a minor they can’t talk to their doctor, they can’t access their doctor for part of their routine healthcare.”
More than 150 clinics in Texas receive Title X funding, all of which must now obtain parental consent.
“Teens who seek confidential care are making responsible decisions for their own health and well-being, and we should applaud them for taking responsibility for their health and future rather than throwing unnecessary, dangerous barriers in their way,” clinic group Every Body Texas said.
Judge Kacsmaryk is a former religious liberties attorney and was appointed to the federal bench by President Trump in 2017. In his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he maintained his judgments are based on written law rather than religion.
“As a District Judge, I would not advocate for clients or a particular policy but instead is bound by oath to faithfully apply all Supreme Court and Fifth Circuit precedent,” he said.