The Political Pill


House Concurrent Resolution 25

Rep. Todd Smith (R-Euless)

There are certain things that some teenagers don’t want to tell Mom and Dad. Like when they’re buying birth control. State Rep. Todd Smith doesn’t appreciate such discretion. In an apparent effort to mandate family drama, the Bedford Republican wants to eliminate the confidentiality minors under age 18 have when they visit certain clinics for birth control and annual exams.

Smith has filed House Concurrent Resolution 25, which isn’t technically legislation but simply a resolution urging the federal government to change its confidentiality policy for minors under age 18 visiting certain clinics for birth control and annual exams.

Hundreds of young women in high school and early college statewide rely on that confidentiality provision to get birth control pills and wellness exams. Brittnee Hawkins, a University of Texas graduate and former peer sexual education leader, said many young girls can’t talk with their parents and feel they have to hide sex-related decisions from them.

“It would really be doing an injustice to the girls that want to experiment but be safe,” she said. “Because the birth control pill is a preventative healthcare service, it shouldn’t be something that somebody has to go to their parents to seek out. It’s not like getting a drug or antibiotic. What’s the harm in allowing someone to get the pill if it’s going to help prevent an unplanned pregnancy?”

You have to wonder if the young Mr. Smith told his parents about his sexual activities. Smith refused interview requests from the Observer. But the resolution states that federal confidentiality requirements “effectively force the state to provide contraceptives to children under the age of 16 in order to finance critical family planning services and reduce the likelihood of parental involvement at a time in a child’s sexual development when emotional capacity is not likely to correspond to physical maturity.”

In the resolution, Smith is going after facilities that provide family-planning services with federal money under the Public Health Service Act.

Currently, 78 different organizations in Texas—ranging from hospitals to Planned Parenthood—distribute that federal money to more than 300 clinics statewide. Fran Hagerty, executive director of the Women’s Health and Family Planning Services Association of Texas, said that of the hundreds of thousands of women served at those clinics, about 10 percent are under 18.

Fortunately, it appears there’s not much Smith can do to make those young women’s lives more difficult. The federal “safeguard” that minors receive when going to a federally funded clinic will trump any state effort to eliminate that provision, Hagerty said. “A lot of this is political positioning and posturing.”