by Suba Narasimhan
So I made the mistake of actually sleeping eight hours last night. I say it was a mistake because I wasn’t hyper-vigilant, and overnight the fine people at the North Carolina General Assembly approved another straightjacket of a bill, and tonight, it will reach the House Floor for a vote.
House Bill 693 (a.k.a. the WTF Are They Thinking Bill) is receiving much less coverage than the Sex-Selective Abortion Ban. However, if it passes, it will amend the state’s current parental consent law extending restrictions to other services beyond abortion and have far-reaching implications on how doctors interact with their teenage patients.
This bill keeps minors from accessing services lawmakers see as potentially inappropriate. HB 693 requires written and NOTARIZED (when was the last time any of us notarized anything?) permission for teens to access birth control, but also for sexually transmitted disease and HIV screening, mental health services, and substance abuse counseling, and prenatal care.
As a long-time resident and fervent lover of NC, I am livid over the Legislature’s attempts to curtail all forms of public health and frustrated by our State media’s lack of coverage about it. Craig Jarvis at the N&O wrote a very short article on HB693 but it was trumped by adorable baby lemurs. Dammit, we have priorities! However, HuffPost and ThinkProgress picked up the slack.
I could fume about a million huge issues but let’s stick to two:
1) Not all minors live in environments that are safe where they can confide in adults: We cannot make legislation based on ideal families with ideal communication.
2) Stigmatizing minors who reach out for medical help and assuming they are engaging in risky behaviors is dangerous: We can’t blame teens when they do the right thing and access medical help.
This bill will change medical practice across NC. More importantly, it keeps an already underserved population from accessing early intervention health services just because they either can’t or won’t confide in a parent or guardian. This is downright dangerous and goes against the tenets of public health and medicine. It seems that REP Whitman seeks to remove the vital role of the physician to bridge the gaps in communication between patient and parent. Yet again, NC proves that M.D. is actually spelled R-E-P.
Cheers NC! Here’s to turning back time to 1960 – but at least it’s a good day to be a notary.
Suba Narasimhan was born in Michigan but raised in Eastern NC. In 2010, she received her MPH in Maternal and Child Health from UNC. She is a Family Planning Researcher who loves loves baby lemurs, reproductive justice, and a good strong cocktail. She can be reached at email@example.com