Editor's note: The following was a comment posted by State Rep. Mary Nolan (D-Portland) on Randy Leonard's post "Protect our Children- Vote No on 43", but it deserves its own thread.
First, thanks to Randy for his clear and passionate explanation of why a "NO" vote on 43 is the way to help protect Oregon teens' safety and health.
Second, the thread here is a great demonstration of the hazards of legislating by ballot measure. Before you move to change one part of the law, it really would be helpful to understand the context and history of the law.
Current law in Oregon and every state I'm aware of requires medical providers (doctors, dentists, nurses, chiropracters, etc.) to receive the informed consent of their patients before providing medical care. This is a good thing. It prevents the abuses of years past where black men were sterilized under the guise of medical care/research and where inmates have been used to experiment on with new drugs.
In Oregon, when the patient is 14 years or younger, we have decided that the medical provider need only explain the proposed course of medical care to the parent (or legal guardian) and receive consent from that adult.
But when the patient is 15 years or older the medical provider must first explain the proposed medical care to the patient her/himself and get consent. If that patient says, "No, thanks," that's the end of it. The medical provider cannot ask mom, dad or guardian to overrule the patient. This is also a good thing. A parent cannot unilaterally give consent to perform an abortion or sterilization on an unwilling 16-year-old. A parent cannot force a 15-year-old to take psychoactive medication.
But if a 15-, 16- or 17-year-old says "Yes" to medical care, Oregon law already allows the medical provider to notify or even consult the parent or guardian if the medical provider believes the minor patient's mental or physical health would benefit by having the parent know or be involved in the decision. The doctor does not need the minor's permission to involve the parent (although most let the patient know, unless circumstances such as imminent danger of suicide demand other action).
The important distinction here is that the law already allows such notification for every medical service from tooth extraction or suicide counseling to birth control prescription to abortion, but does not require it. As written and practiced today, the laws of our state rely on the medical expertise and good judgement of doctors (dentists, nurses, etc.) to weigh the factors and take the action that they believe best serves the health of their patients. In making those decisions, medical providers take into account both the immediate physical well-being of their patient and the long-term emotional and mental well-being of the patient.
Measure 43 would take that judgement call out of the hands of medical professionals and put it in the hands of administrative law judges with no particular expertise or insight. But Measure 43 would make that distinction for only one medical procedure which, we should not ignore, can be requested by only half the population.
If the motives of the proponents were truly to assure that parents have the chance to guide their young adult children in times of medical need, I wonder why they didn't propose to change the underlying law and require parental notice or consent for all medical service until age 18.
My own daughter is fast approaching her teen years. I know I would be crushed if she chose to make such an important decision without my help. But I also know that it is my responsibility now to lay the foundation for her to feel completely comfortable seeking my support. And that standing in her way 5 years from now because I couldn't or wouldn't be accessible to her now isn't fair, and is far from safe.
Please join Randy and me in voting "NO" on 43.