Letter from M. Joycelyn Elders, Antonia C. Novello, C. Everett Koop, Julius Richmond, S. Paul Ehrlich, Jr., and Jesse L. Steinfeld
to Edward M. Kennedy
In this letter, as well as in subsequent Congressional testimony, then current U. S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders (1993-1994),
as well as former Surgeons General Antonia Novello, Koop, Julius Richmond, S. Paul Ehrlich, and Jesse Steinfeld opposed mandatory
written parental consent to dispensing birth-control information and contraceptive aides to minors for fear that such a requirement
would facilitate the spread of AIDS.
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1994-02-07 (February 7, 1994)
Elders, M. Joycelyn
Novello, Antonia C.
Koop, C. Everett
Ehrlich, S. Paul Jr
Steinfeld, Jesse L.
Kennedy, Edward M.
United States Senate
This item is in the public domain. It may be used without permission.
AIDS, the Surgeon General, and the Politics of Public Health
[Dr. C. Everett Koop and other Surgeons General testifying before the U.S. Senate on AIDS policy] (February 1994)
Feb 7 1994
Dear Mr. Chairman:
We write to you to express our views regarding any proposed federal policy that would mandate written parental consent prior
to counseling or providing condoms or other contraceptive aides to unemancipated minors. Decisions regarding the appropriate
dissemination and content of health education materials should not be made at the federal level, but rather by local public
health and education professionals working together with parents and community leaders.
The public health effects of mandating written parental consent must be carefully considered. While we believe that teenagers
should be encouraged to consult with their parents about family planning and STD-prevention measures, a requirement for written
parental consent is dangerously restrictive and could lead to dire and unwanted public health consequences.
The data show that increasing numbers of adolescents under 18 years of age are sexually active with one or more partners.
This behavior places them at risk for a range of serious sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS, and unintended teenage
childbearing. There are data showing that adolescents will forego counseling, education, and services if parental consent
is required. A policy of this nature would sharply reduce the hope of reaching those teenagers who are most at risk, and reduce
the ability of health professionals to encourage family involvement, or assist adolescents in taking responsible action.
As our nation strives to confront the growing AIDS epidemic, and reduce the incidence of HIV infection among youth, it is
vital to provide effective education materials. A federal law curtailing or excluding information regarding condoms pending
written parental consent cannot be justified on public health grounds, particularly when this information may save teen lives.
Decisions about information dissemination and content should be made at the local level with ongoing involvement of parents
and community leaders.
We support the efforts of public health professionals and health care providers to encourage minors to involve their families
in all aspects of health education and health services. We would strongly oppose a federal mandate that requires parental
consent as a condition of receiving federal health funds.