What’s Really at Stake

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Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Angie Vineyard, Research Fellow, The Beverly LaHaye Institute
Email: FemFacts@cwfa.org

A recently published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that most underage girls would stop seeking birth-control products from Planned Parenthood clinics if Congress passed parental-notification laws. The study, conducted by researchers Diane M. Reddy and Raymond Fleming, both of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, showed some very interesting findings.

Of the 950 girls polled, under the age of 17, 86 percent said they would continue to be sexually active regardless of whether they visited a Planned Parenthood clinic. The study also found that if parents had to be notified of their daughter’s request for prescription birth-control products, 47 percent of the girls said they would stop using some clinic services. And an additional 12 percent said they would either delay or skip testing for sexually transmitted diseases or health exams. Researchers concluded that based on their research, “requiring parental notification for obtaining prescribed contraceptives would likely increase unintended pregnancies, abortions, and out-of-wedlock births.”

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of these findings is the source of the data. Assisting Reddy and Fleming in their study was Carolyne Swain, an official with Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin Inc., in Milwaukee.

And therein lies the rub.

What Planned Parenthood study wouldn’t find that underage girls would continue to be sexually active, be more likely to skip testing for sexually transmitted diseases and health exams if parental-notification laws were passed? None-because the JAMA-reported study really isn’t about unintended pregnancies or abortions or even out-of-wedlock births. No, it’s about money.

Since 1987, Planned Parenthood has had a $454 million profit and received $2.2 billion in taxpayer money. In the year 2000 alone, they reported a total of 2,651,209 unduplicated clients, not all of them women. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to realize that if the number of Planned Parenthood clients decreases, so too do their profits, political clout and their access to taxpayer dollars.

A far cry from objective, scientific research, the so-called “study” was faulty before it ever began. Girls were never asked about their relationships with their parents. They were not asked what kind of communication they had with them or how their parents positively or negatively influenced or affected them. And the only girls who were polled were those that were already using Planned Parenthood services. No other girls, sexually active or abstinent, were polled.

The fact is, asking a girl who already uses Planned Parenthood services if she will or won’t use health services doesn’t qualify as the basis for good research. Why not? For one reason, girls under the age of 18 cannot predict their own behavior from one day to the next. And second, the girls were asked, “Would informing your parents cause you to stop using Planned Parenthood services?” Simply answering that question implies that they never talk to their parents about their sexual behavior. These girls have no knowledge of how their parents will respond, nor can they judge how honest and open communication with them will affect their decisions.

The fact is, there has never been a scientific study done on how parental-notification laws would affect the sexual behavior of girls under the age of 18 and whether or not they would seek out health services.

If the debate about parental-notification laws is to continue-and it will-then let it continue. But let it continue with objective scientific research, not a counterfeit study conducted by an official from the very association whose substantial income and influence is at stake.

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