information for California providers of adolescent health services
A Project of the National Center for Youth Law
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Frequently Asked Questions
Note: The following information is provided for educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Each case is different, and only someone familiar with the complete facts in a particular situation can provide adequate counsel. For legal advice, you should consult your own attorney.
Parent Access to Reproductive Health Records
Q: Sometimes a parent will bring their child to our clinic and give “consent” for the child to receive birth control or another minor consent service. I always get the minor’s consent for the service as well, but does the parent have a right to see the results and records related to this care since he/she consented to the service?
A: No. In most cases, a parent does not have the right to receive medical records or information about a health care service for which a minor consented or could have consented under law. California law says that minors of any age may consent to contraceptive services. Therefore, because a minor may consent to pregnancy related care under state law, the records cannot be released to either parent without the minor's authorization -- no matter who actually consented for the service. Click here for more on confidentiality and parent access rights, including legal citations.
Age for Consent
Q: At what age may teens get birth control on their own consent? At what age may teens consent to their own STD testing?
A: Minors of ANY AGE may consent for medical care related to the prevention or treatment of pregnancy. Cal. Family Code section 6925. This includes the right to consent to contraception. So, minors of any age may consent to birth control. However, minors must be 12 years of age or older in order to consent for their own STD testing and treatment. Cal. Family Code section 6926. For more detail on California's minor consent laws, see our minor consent chart and our Minor Consent publication
State Statute on Abortion Consent
Q: I read everywhere that a minor may consent to an abortion on her own behalf. Then why, when I do a search of state law, do I find Health and Safety Code section 123450 that says minors must have parental consent for an abortion?
A: In 1987, the state legislature passed Health and Safety Code section 25958 (renumbered as section 123450 in 1995), a law that would have required a minor to get consent from a parent or guardian before terminating a pregnancy, absent a medical emergency. The statute was challenged in court before it could go into effect. The Supreme Court of California ultimately decided that California minors have a constitutionally protected right to consent to abortion and to keep their reproductive information confidential. The Court said that Health and Safety Code section 123450 violates a minor’s right to privacy under the California constitution. A.A.P. v. Lungren, 66 Cal. Rptr. 2d 210, 244 (1997). Despite the fact that the statute cannot be implemented, the California legislature still has not removed California Health & Safety Code, Section 123450 from the state code book. Though the law remains in print, the law is not in effect. Click here for more on minors and abortion.
Q: A grandmother brought her minor granddaughter to our clinic for services, with a letter signed by the minor’s mom authorizing grandma to consent for care. This teen has asthma and needs care. The girl’s mom is on the streets, and getting her consent is not an option. May we treat this minor based on grandma’s consent?
A: Yes. There are two options. First, you may honor the letter from mom. California law allows a parent to authorize an adult into whose care a minor has been entrusted to consent to medical or dental care for the minor. Cal. Family Code § 6910. This authorization must be in writing but it doesn’t need to follow a particular format. Thus, a letter from mom authorizing grandma to consent for her daughter’s medical care should suffice. Alternatively, if this minor is living with her grandmother, you could ask grandma to fill out a caregiver consent affidavit. Under California law, a caregiver who is a relative and who completes a “caregiver consent affidavit” may authorize most medical care for a minor. Cal. Family Code § 6550. All clinics that see minor patients should have copies of the caregiver consent affidavit sitting at their front desk for just this kind of situation. To download a sample caregiver consent affidavit, click here. For more information about the caregiver consent affidavit and the rules about its use, please see page two in Minor Consent, Confidentiality and Child Abuse Reporting in California.
Information necessary for a Child Abuse Report
Q: My client was raped but won't tell me the name of his attacker or even where it occurred. I know mandated reporters of child abuse are required to include certain information in their child abuse report, such as the child's name and address, and information about the alleged abuser. If I don't have all the necessary information, is a report still required?
A: Yes. State law does 'require' mandated reporters to include certain information in their mandated child abuse reports. Some people mistakenly take this to mean that they should not make a child abuse report unless they have all the requested information, but state law specifically says that a reporter still should report "even if some of [the] information is not known or is uncertain to him or her." Cal. Penal Code 11167(a). Therefore, a report should be made, despite the fact that you don't have all the information requested.
Teen pregnancy or STD diagnosis reportable?
Q: I am a mandated reporter of child abuse. Does a diagnosis of pregnancy or infection with a sexually transmitted disease automatically require an abuse report?
A: No. Pregnancy or evidence of a sexually transmitted disease in a minor does not, in and of itself, constitute sufficient evidence to establish a reasonable suspicion of sexual abuse. Cal. Penal Code 11166(a)(1). People ex rel Eicheberger v. Stockton Pregnancy Control Medical Clinic, Inc., 249 Cal. Rptr. 762, 769 (3rd Dist. Ct. App. 1989). This means they should not be reported absent other evidence of abuse.
However, pregnancy or an STD, when combined with additional information, may present a reasonable suspicion that child abuse has occurred. Stockton at 767. For this reason, treating professionals "must evaluate facts known to them in light of their training and experience to determine whether they have an objectively reasonable suspicion of child abuse." Id. at 769.
Click here for more on California's child abuse reporting obligations.
Question of the Month
Q: May a teen ever obtain medical care related to the prevention of a sexually transmitted disease on his or her own and without parent involvement?
A: Beginning in January 2012, minors 12 years old and older may consent for medical care related to the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. AB 499 (2011); Cal. Family Code section 6926. For more detail on AB 499 and this law, see our STD page and our minor consent chart.
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