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Washington erasing parents from the equation

State lawmakers propose school-based healthcare for teens

A health worker and a patient in Los Angeles Getty Images/Photo by Valerie Macon/AFP (file)

Washington erasing parents from the equation

Since January, children in Washington state ages 13 and up can obtain confidential treatment for mental health conditions and gender dysphoria using their parent’s insurance plan—without their parents’ consent.

Now, the state is considering a bill to set up health clinics on middle and high school campuses. Parents fear these clinics will talk children into dangerous and irreversible medical treatments such as puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to make their bodies look more like the opposite sex.

“This bill would allow a child to make an appointment during the school day, and Mom and Dad would never know about it,” said Jennifer Heine-Withee, a mother of three who runs Washington Parents Rights in Education.

In many states, including Washington, teenage girls may already leave classes to get an abortion or obtain contraceptives without their parents’ knowledge.

Exceptions to parental consent laws in some states have steadily expanded to include “gender-affirming” care. Oregon in 2015 passed a law allowing minors ages 15 and up to obtain taxpayer-funded puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and sex change surgeries without parental consent. California passed a similar bill for children in foster care in 2018.

In March, California lawmakers introduced a separate bill, the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act, that would hold health insurance companies criminally liable if they disclosed sensitive medical information to parents about their dependents, including treatment and procedures that have been done without their knowledge.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom also approved a fund in September that earmarks taxpayer money for “gender-affirming health care services” including puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for youth. Hundreds of health clinics are popping up on middle and high school campuses across the state.

In December 2019, Planned Parenthood Los Angeles announced a program to open 50 high school–based wellness centers within the next three years. These clinics do not provide surgical abortions but do offer contraceptives, including “morning after” pills, and “gender-affirming” counseling.

Planned Parenthood has steadily added puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to its list of services, though obtaining them depends on state parental consent laws. Transgender people on YouTube describe how easy it is to get prescriptions from Planned Parenthood for cross-sex hormones.

“Parents are totally unaware of what is happening,” said Brenda Lebsack, a special education teacher in the Santa Ana, Calif., Unified School District and a former board member for the Orange Unified School District.

The California Teachers Association, the state’s largest and most powerful teachers union, quietly updated its policy in January to state that school-based health clinics are needed to “provide cisgender, transgender, and nonbinary youth equal and confidential access to decision-making rights for students and their families.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers in other states have attempted to ban puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and sex-change surgeries for minors. So far, none of those measures have succeeded.

In Washington, Heine-Withee said a 2019 law blindsided parents by eliminating their involvement in treatment for gender dysphoria, sexually transmitted diseases, and mental health conditions and in abortion. Many parents learned about the law after receiving a notification from their health insurance carrier.

Now, as the state considers implementing school-based health clinics, Kim Wendt of Informed Parents of Washington warned it will create a funding stream between school districts and parents’ insurance companies. At a state House Education Committee hearing earlier this year, Wendt said she was “trying to get other parents to understand that they’re slowly taking away, law by law, our ability to be the parents to our children, and then just making us their personal ATMs.”

Mary Jackson

Mary is a book reviewer and senior writer for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute and Greenville University graduate who previously worked for the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal. Mary resides with her family in the San Francisco Bay area.


Thank you for your careful research and interesting presentations. —Clarke

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