This Maryland Legislation Could Make It Harder For Teenagers to Get Most Effective Birth Control

Supermajority Education Fund

January 23, 2020

New legislation filed by a state delegate in Maryland could limit young people’s access to some of the most effective birth control methods. Maryland State Del. Neil Parrott introduced H.B. 53 after he heard a story about the incorrect implantation of a Nexplanon birth control implant in a 16-year-old girl at a school-based health center.

“The issue really is parents having no knowledge at all,” Parrott, a Republican, told the Frederick News-Post. “And then seeing that their daughter had a minor surgery, and then, you know, it is the case here, was pretty horrific.”

Planned Parenthood rates IUDs and birth control implant as 99 percent effective. Both are long-lasting. Merck, the manufacturer of Nexplanon birth control implants, told Baltimore ABC affiliate WMAR that training is required to buy the implants. Studies have found “rare complications” with birth control implant insertions.

The legislation itself is pretty short: “A healthcare provider, as defined in § 5–601 of this Article, may not insert or implant a contraceptive device, including an intrauterine device or implantable rod, into the body of a minor unless the minor’s parent or guardian provides written authorization for the minor to have the device inserted or implanted.”

Rebecca Thimmesch, manager of Advocates for Youth’s Free the Pill Youth Council, works with young people from all walks of life who experience obstacles to accessing contraception — like homeless youth and emancipated young people. “Young people face some of the steepest barriers to accessing contraceptive care of all types,” Thimmesch told Supermajority News. “It’s important that we’re starting from a baseline of respect for their autonomy. A lot of people don’t respect young people’s rights when it comes to their bodily autonomy. They’re capable of working with a provider to know what’s best for them.”

Legislating away access to contraception doesn’t address concerns about the safety of these procedures — which, again, are typically very safe — anyway, she said. “I understand the concern of this parent. I understand the concern of the lawmaker, but I would strongly caution against legislating to that effect,” Thimmesch said. “It can and will cause harm to other young people.”

Despite the specific situation that led to H.B. 53, the bill is a part of a growing movement of parental notification laws. Typically, these laws seek to limit a young person’s right to abortion without parental consent, which has led to some minors seeking judicial bypass for the medical procedure and may also be read to encompass contraception. H.B. 53, however, narrows its focus solely on implantable contraception. “This is the first time I’ve seen a parental notification bill that only refers to contraception,” Thimmesch said.

Thimmesch added that this bill’s narrow focus shouldn’t be praised. “There is a larger trend toward parental notification laws nationwide. Even if this isn’t the intent of this legislation, it needs to be seen in this context,” she said. “It’s increasing those barriers to care for young people.”

Thimmesch said parents need to work on being approachable. “We want parents to be involved in their kid’s health care decision, but the onus is on parents to be ask-able and approachable,” she said.