LD 251 threatens teen health

Posted April 30, 2009, at 7:51 p.m.

The passage of LD 251: “An Act to Protect the Safety of Maine’s Children by Requiring Express Consent of a Legal Guardian to Dispense Medication to a Minor” would overturn a law regarding teens and confidential health services that has been in effect in Maine since 1973. This would have devastating effects on the health and lives of minors in our state far after they reach their 18th birthdays.

LD 251 runs counter to the federal stipulation under Medicaid and Title X that people of all ages receive confidential health services. LD 251 becoming law would not allow minors to receive confidential health services, and thus violates Medicaid regulations that all people are to receive services. LD 251 could prompt a de-crease in federal funds due to regulation violations shifting the cost of those services back to the people of the state of Maine.

Anti-choice advocates and some parents may not agree with my position on LD 251. They may see LD 251 as an abortion issue, and in some cases it is. However, the implications of this bill far surpass abortion. The real issue is the safety and health of the young people in our state.

This is especially concerning because more than 65 percent of Maine teens report being sexually active by the 12th grade and 40 percent by grade 10. A sexually active teen who does not use contraception has a 90 percent chance of becoming pregnant with in one year and also has an increased chance of contracting a sexually transmitted disease.

Other states have passed similar laws and have paid the price. Texas reported an increase of 8,000 reported teen pregnancies annually, an increase of 1,600 reported teen abortions annually and an additional increase of 5,000 reported teen births annually.

If LD 251 becomes law teens will no longer be able to get prescriptions for birth control and emergency contraception without parental consent. This is in spite of the fact that teens receiving such services do so under the thoughtful supervision of a health care professional.

LD 251 would cause a dramatic increase in the numbers of teens who suffer with untreated sexually transmitted infections, which also could increase the spread of STIs to others. Seventy percent of teens who now use confidential health services say they would stop getting these services if they were required to tell their par-ents.

Even in the most functional of families, teens may not feel comfortable initiating an open dialogue about reproductive health. Thus, teens must be given opportunities outside of the family to make appropriate, responsible decisions. Opposing LD 251 promotes health and well-being for the future of the state of Maine.

Christiana Boucher will graduate from the University of Maine this month with a master’s degree in social work.

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