Texans under the age of 18 are now legally required to seek approval from their parent or guardian in order to obtain birth control from federally funded clinics, a federal judge in the state has ruled.
Title X, the federal grant program which was created in 1970 in order to provide family planning and preventive health services, was ruled a violation of state law and parental rights by federal judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in December 2022.
Kacsmaryk, a former religious liberty lawyer, was appointed to the bench by former president Donald Trump in 2019.
The judgment was issued in the case of Deanda v Becerra, which saw plaintiff Alexander R Deanda argue that Title X prevented him from “raising each of [his] daughters in accordance with Christian teaching on matters of sexuality, which requires unmarried children to practice abstinence and refrain from sexual intercourse until marriage”.
In his official opinion on the case, Judge Kacsmaryk wrote: “Texas law confers Plaintiff the right to consent to his children’s medical care and general standing to file suit for a violation of that right.”
Family participation in such decisions was already encouraged by Title X, but it is now legally required in federally funded family clinics in Texas, regardless of whether or not the teenager is already a parent.
The US Department of Health and Human Services is appealing the decision.
The news comes after the US supreme court overturned the decision in Roe v Wade last year that gave Americans the constitutional right to an abortion. Since the landmark decision was reversed, states like Texas have the authority to implement their own restrictive laws that either limit or even outright ban the ability to terminate a pregnancy.
In Texas, performing an abortion is now a felony with a possible punishment of life in prison, with the exception of saving a pregnant person’s life.
In a statement, the president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Alexis McGill Johnson, said: “Opponents of reproductive rights are not satisfied with overturning Roe – they want to take away birth control from young people, and restrict access to essential sexual and reproductive health care wherever they can. This ruling threatens the health and lives of young people, who may be stripped of their ability to access the health care they need to build healthy lives.”
“This is not the last attempt to restrict birth control access. PPFA will continue to fight for everyone’s ability to make decisions for themselves – and do everything we can so that Planned Parenthood health center patients receive the care they deserve.”
Those most at risk from the undercutting of Title X include teenagers from low-income and rural backgrounds who rely on free healthcare clinics. Planned Parenthood also said Black, Latino and Indigenous communities already face barriers to healthcare due to systemic racism.
Obtaining contraception was already difficult in Texas prior to the repeal of Title X. It is one of 24 states that restrict minors’ ability to obtain contraception without parental consent. Now that minors are not able to access confidential services at federally funded Title X clinics, their ability to obtain contraception in the state is even more constrained.
Other services at federally funded clinics in the state, like contraceptive counseling, STI testing and treatment, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and pre-pregnancy care, are still accessible without parental consent.