Monday, March 18, 2013

Parental involvement laws have no influence on teen sex behavior

Many jurisdictions have implemented parental involvement laws that require from physicians to discuss with or at least alert parents about a possible abortion with their minor daughter. The idea is to raise the stakes of unsafe teen sex in that parents get involved. The literature seems to point to the success of such laws in that regions that implement them have, other things being equal, lower rates of sexually transmitted diseases (specifically gonorrhea), which is a clear marker for unsafe sex.

Silvie Colman, Thomas Dee and Theodore Joyce claim we should be rethinking this statement. Indeed, they find no association between parental involvement laws and teen sex using better data than what was used in previous studies. In particular, they have data that includes finer age groups for the patients, something that seems essential for this type of claim as sexually transmitted diseases are much more caught by 18-19 years olds (who are not minors) than 15-17 years olds, who are subject to such laws. They also take into account race and ethnicity, as the reporting rate for gonorrhea vary considerably among them, and they add reports for chlamydia. The fact that the laws have no impact on teen sexual activity shows that they do not know about them or do not care. And a law that has no impact is a useless law.

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