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On The Front Lines

Rutherford Institute Warns Against California Legislation Allowing Minors to Receive STD Treatments Without Parental Consent

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Insisting that it is the responsibility and authority of parents—not the state—to make wise medical decisions for their children, The Rutherford Institute is urging California Governor Jerry Brown to veto a bill that would allow young girls to consent to medical treatments related to the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) as early as age 12 without their parents' knowledge or consent. Voicing the concern that AB 499 poses a significant threat to the constitutional right of parents to direct and control their children's upbringing, Institute attorneys warn that AB 499 vests immature children with inappropriate levels of responsibility for critical decision-making and undermines the fundamental parent-child relationship that has been the bedrock of society since the beginning of time.

The Rutherford Institute's letter to Gov. Jerry Brown is available here.

"AB 499 usurps the traditional role of parents, while establishing the state as parent over the child. It is clearly unconstitutional," said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. "This law also invades the family's right to privacy, while forcing children to make life-altering decisions they are not equipped to handle."

California's AB 499, which is awaiting Gov. Brown's signature to become law, would allow girls as young as 12 to receive preventive treatments for STDs without their parents' knowledge or consent. However, as Institute attorneys point out, if parents' rights to shape and influence their minor children's course in life do not encompass the prerogative to control the administration of prophylactic medications by third-party strangers, then these rights are of no practical consequence.

Furthermore, given that children lack the capacity to comprehend the gravity of healthcare decisions and to carefully weigh costs and benefits of medical treatment options, including the costs and benefits of choosing to forego a given treatment altogether, AB 499 flies in the face of well-established legal principles on informed consent in the healthcare context. Finally, Institute attorneys argue that the central issue behind AB 499 is not whether the treatments to be offered to adolescents at their own choosing are beneficial but whether the State should be permitted to provide the treatment to children based on its own judgment that the treatment will be beneficial to any child who chooses it.

"As it stands already, the government has an incredible amount of influence over the nation's children through the public education system," states Whitehead in his letter to Gov. Brown. "The modern public school curriculum encompasses far more than reading, writing and arithmetic, including such subjects as family life, sex education, and even character development. To the extent that the state's foray into the inculcation of morality in the nation's youth renders the parent's own instruction on these issues marginal, the Institute submits that it weakens the American family."