A federal judge in Texas overturned a rule that allows teens to access birth control without their parents’ consent from providers participating in a federal family planning program.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s ruling on Tuesday likely means that teens receiving care under the Title X family planning program may no longer do so confidentially.
Kacsmaryk ruled that the Title X program, which offers free and confidential contraceptives, cancer screenings, and other services to millions of low-income people, violates parents’ constitutional right to decide how their children are raised.
According to the Department of Health and Welfare, Title X clinics are often the only continuous source of healthcare and health education for the people who use them.
Kacsmaryk, nominated by former President Trump in 2017 and confirmed in 2019, is a former lawyer for a Christian legal group that helped companies fight against contraceptive regulations.
Advocacy groups in the area of reproductive medicine condemned the verdict and said it could have far-reaching consequences.
“Reproductive rights opponents aren’t content to overthrow ROE — they want to take birth control away from young people and restrict access to basic sexual and reproductive healthcare wherever they can,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood.
“This ruling threatens the health and lives of young people who may be denied the opportunity to access the healthcare they need to live healthy lives,” she said.
Clare Coleman, president and CEO of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, drew a straight line from the Roe v. Wade case to the attacks on the Title X program.
“Despite the fact that the right to access contraceptives is protected in the US Constitution for everyone, including adolescents, this ruling is intended to create the basis for reversing that right,” Coleman said in a statement.
“Title X-funded providers are seen as highly trustworthy sources of health information for their patients, and not having access to confidential care blocks young people from a key path to essential health services,” she added.
The case was discussed by Jonathan Mitchell, the former Texas attorney general, who wrote the state’s controversial abortion law, which banned the procedure after around six weeks and allows any private citizen to sue doctors or abortion clinic employees.
Mitchell also filed the successful lawsuit to challenge ObamaCare’s rule that requires insurers and employers to cover drugs to prevent HIV.
Mitchell represented a man named Alex Deanda who said he “raised each of his daughters in accordance with Christian teaching on sexuality, which requires that unmarried children abstinence and abstain from sexual intercourse until marriage.”
In the complaint, Deanda argued that the Title X program affected parents’ ability to raise their children in accordance with their own religious values.
Deanda said he “wants to be informed if any of his children have access to or are trying to access prescription contraceptives and other family planning services. And he doesn’t want his kids to receive or consume these drugs or services unless he agrees.”
Kacsmaryk issued a summary judgment on Dec. 8, and on Tuesday he issued a final decision overturning the confidential portion of the Title X law, although he did not issue an injunction prohibiting clinics from preventing minors without parental consent.