Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but don’t get your hopes up. In fact, keep them down.
For almost a year, Texas teens have been shut out of a federal program that allows minors to access birth control without parental consent.
On Monday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals indicated they may uphold the court ruling that stymied the program. The three-judge panel did not rule from the bench, but seemed supportive of conservative attorney Jonathan Mitchell’s case, with one judge calling the contraception program a “destruction” of parental rights.
Mitchell, a former Texas solicitor general, filed the case on behalf of Alexander Deanda, an Amarillo-area father raising his daughters “in accordance with Christian teaching on matters of sexuality.”
The U.S. Department of Justice’s cornerstone argument is that Deanda has no legal right to bring this case because he cannot show that his daughters have ever even visited one of the clinics, let alone were prescribed birth control without his consent.
Less than 30 seconds after the DOJ began arguments Monday, Judge Catharina Haynes interrupted.
“If your kid knows you don’t want them to go have sex when they’re 15, they’re certainly not going to tell you they want to go and get some medicine so that they don’t end up pregnant,” Haynes said. “So how the heck is [Deanda] going to know that?”
Appeals courts have repeatedly ruled that minors have a right to confidential contraception under the Title X program, which Mitchell acknowledged Monday. But he asked the judges — two appointed by President George W. Bush and one appointed by President Donald Trump — to reject that precedent and instead find that Texas’ parental consent code should dictate how this federal program operates in the state.
“Texas has been the birthplace of a lot of bad sexual and reproductive health policy that other states have replicated,” said Stephanie LeBleu, program director with Every Body Texas, a nonprofit that administers the Title X grant in Texas. “If the 5th Circuit upholds this ruling, there’s a bigger question about what this means for access to birth control, full stop, and not just in Texas.”
See here, here, and here for the background. As with the EMTALA appeal, the question is not “how will they rule”, but “did they already have an opinion written before any of the lawyers entered the courtroom?” And, when they make their ludicrous and predetermined ruling, will SCOTUS decide that they have gone too far? We all know how much fun putting faith in SCOTUS is. Fifth Circuit delenda est. Slate has more.