The recent move by the Bush administration to allow health care providers to cite individual conscience in refusing to write or fill prescriptions or provide any information about options in in regard to the patient health care decisions may make the following superfluous. But if the incoming Obama administration rescinds that Bush order, minors find it especially difficult to obtain information and certain treatments that the conservative movement feels minors should not have access to.
Minors do, however, have the legal option in many states to emancipate themselves from parental oversight on all their health care decisions and informational access. Older teens who wish to sign off on all medical decision-making, as well as other personal decisions, can seek status as either mature minors or as emancipated minors.
Mature minors are those in their mid or late teens who are considered mature enough to comprehend a recommendation given by a doctor, and could therefore give informed consent. Many states allow mature minors to seek medical treatment without the consent of a parent or guardian for some condiitons. These conditions include issues like mental health, drug or alcohol addiction, treatment for STDs, pregnancy and contraceptive services.
However, the atmosphere in some states may be too oppressive for teens to have access to unbiased information and treatment on any of these issues.
The other option is to seek legal status as an emancipated minor. Emancipated minors generally live outside their parental home. A judge is needed to issue an emancipation order at the request of either the parent or minor child after considering qualifying factors.
These factors include:
- Is the minor employed, and spending his or her earnings without direct parental supervision?
- Does the minor pay his or her own debts?
- Does the minor live at home with parents or guardians, or living independently?
- If the minor lives at home, does he/she pay room and board?
- Is the minor claimed as a dependent on the parental tax returns?
- Additional criteria: Is the minor self-supporting?
- Is the minor serving in the armed forces?
- Is the minor married? This is not a silly question. In many states minors can marry at 16 with and sometimes without permission. An oddity of this provision is that even if the teen couple divorces, separates, or the married is ended by a death, the teen remains emancipated.
Even when a teen is granted emancipation, it does not also grant other rights given to adults. Teens must still observe restrictions on drinking and voting age requirements, and whatever other state laws may apply. Emancipated teens do not, however, have to attend school.
Several states allow minors who are parents to direct medical care for their children as well as themselves. And in some states this includes the right to place their children for adoption.
Emancipation may be a route for a pregnant teen to obtain an abortion without having to inform their parents of the fact -- since in many states at least one parent has to sign off on the procedure. Otherwise, obtaining what is called judicial bypass (obtaining a court order from a judge) or traveling out of state are both expensive and time-consuming.
See also: A Teenager,s Guide to Emancipation,
Emancipated Teen Parents
and the TANF Living Arrangement Rules: A Fact Sheet, www.clasp.org/publications/emancipated_teen_parents.htm