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Texas federal judge rules against HHS program allowing teens confidential birth control

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

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

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

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

Kacsmaryk did not grant an injunction, which would have immediately prohibited Title X clinics from providing contraception to minors without parental consent. 

Kacsmaryk was appointed by former-President Donald Trump in 2019 and is a former religious liberty advocated. Previously, he has worked on litigation to overturn contraceptive protection. 

The case was argued by Jonathan Mitchell, the former solicitor general of Texas who was the author of the state’s controversial abortion law that banned the procedure after approximately six weeks.

Mitchell also brought a successful lawsuit to challenge an Obamacare’s rule that requires insurers and employers to cover HIV prevention drugs.

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 refrain from sexual intercourse until marriage.”

In the complaint, Deanda argued the Title X program interferes with the ability of parents to raise their children in accordance with their own religious values.

Deanda said he “wishes to be informed if any of his children are accessing or attempting to access prescription contraception and other family-planning services. And he does not want his children to obtain or use these drugs or services unless he 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 him the “fundamental right to control and direct the upbringing of his minor children.”

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

While federal regulations say Title X clinics should “encourage family participation … 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 Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, 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 high-quality, confidential 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 pathway to essential health services for young people.”

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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