SB 352 introduced by Sen. Leising would amend the law concerning when a minor can consent to receipt of medical services. It failed to pass by a vote of 25 nays to 24 ayes. I believe that means it could be brought to the floor again because it wasn’t defeated by a majority.
Generally, it’s up to the parent to consent on behalf of someone who is under eighteen years old. There are some exceptions: e.g. the minor is married or emancipated. This legislation would add to the exceptions, permitting a girl who is at least 16 years old and pregnant, in labor, or within 60 days postpartum to give consent to the minor’s medical care relative to the pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum care. The introduced version of the bill stated that it included consent to obtaining postpartum contraception but that was taken out in committee. (If I’m understanding Mary Beth Schneider’s reporting on Twitter about Sen. Leising’s statements, federal law makes contraception available to minors, so that committee change might be more symbolic than substantive.) The legislation also specifically excludes consent to an abortion from application of this legislation.
It’s hard to argue with Sen. Leising’s statement:
Leising said she can almost guarantee that if a girl comes to a doctor or ER when pregnant, even without parent, “she needs care.”
On an abstract level, I suppose one could argue that, if we require parental consent for a minor’s medical care generally, why should pregnancy be any different? I think the answer is that it’s because people aren’t entirely rational when it comes to the subject of their kids and sex. Decent parents are going to get their kid treatment for a broken leg or cancer — or at least try.
Because of the moral cruft that’s built up about sexuality and pregnancy over the centuries, otherwise decent parents might well fail their daughters when it comes to medical care related to pregnancy. Or, even if the parents would do the right thing, it may be that daughters can’t face what they believe will be the moral opprobrium coming from their parents and, as a result, they harm themselves or their babies by avoiding the discussions with their parents and, consequently, not obtaining necessary medical care.