Court upholds Texas law that requires teens to get parental consent for birth control. Here's what to know.

A one-month dosage of hormonal birth control pills
A one-month dosage of hormonal birth control pills. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

This week a federal appeals court upheld a Texas law that requires minors in the state to get parental permission to access contraception through a federally funded family planning program known as Title X.

In its appeal to the Fifth Circuit, the Biden administration argued that as a federal program, Title X preempts the Texas family law requiring parental consent. But the three-judge panel disagreed and largely upheld a ruling by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk from a case filed by a Texas father who says he’s against Title X, citing his Christian values of abstinence.

“Moreover, Title X’s goal (encouraging family participation in teens’ receiving family planning services) is not undermined by Texas’s goal (empowering parents to consent to their teen’s receiving contraceptives),” Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan wrote in the appeals court’s ruling. “To the contrary, the two laws reinforce each other.”

Before Kacsmaryk’s decision, the Texas state law didn’t apply to Title X clinics. But now it does.

Here’s what else you should know:

🇺🇸 What is Title X?

Title X is a federally funded program created in 1970 that provides family planning and preventative health services, including free contraception to anyone, despite their age, income or immigration status.

Title X is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services and is implemented through grants to over 3,500 clinical sites, also known as Title X clinics.

🔎 What the ruling means for Texas minors

The ruling affirms that Texas minors cannot access prescription birth control without parental consent at federally funded Title X clinics.

“There are still services that minors in Texas are allowed to obtain without involving a parent, such as testing/treatment for sexually transmitted infections,” Dr. Kari White, executive and scientific director of Resound Research for Reproductive Health, said in an emailed statement to Yahoo News.

Meanwhile, Lucie Arvallo, executive director at Jane’s Due Process, which helps young people in Texas navigate parental consent laws, clarified that the ruling won’t affect teenagers’ ability to get over-the-counter birth control or emergency contraception.

The first over-the-counter birth control pill, Opill, will be available nationwide — including in Texas — by the end of this month.

Still, Arvallo emphasized the implications of the latest ruling.

“That means in a state where we still have abstinence for sex education, where teenagers are having to navigate almost insurmountable barriers to access abortion, we also are taking away their ability to access birth control in a way that feels safe and meaningful for them,” Arvallo said. “The Fifth Circuit is upholding a multitiered system in which whether or not a young person has control over their own body and future depends on the luck of where they live.”

❓How does Texas compare with other states?

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports reproductive health rights, 27 states and the District of Columbia, specify that all or some people younger than age 18 can obtain contraceptive health care without parental permission.

Meanwhile, 19 states allow specific categories of people younger than age 18, like those who are married, pregnant or already parents, to access contraceptive care.

The remaining four states don’t have an explicit policy or previous case law to cite, according to Guttmacher.

➡️ What’s next?

“Health centers with Title X funding in Texas have been requiring parental consent for contraceptive services since the district court ruling was issued,” White said in the emailed statement. “Until the health centers get different guidance, that will likely remain the case.”

It’s not clear if the Biden administration will further appeal the decision, according to the Associated Press.

If this case ends up before the Supreme Court, Arvallo says this could have wide ripple effects across the nation.

“[If] the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Fifth Circuit, it could affect access to birth control in Title X clinics in every state where there's a general right for parents to direct their children's medical care,” Arvallo said.

Meanwhile, Kacsmaryk’s name will soon be in the headlines again. Appointed by former President Trump, he’s the same judge who suspended FDA approval of a widely used abortion pill, mifepristone. The Justice Department’s appeal of that ruling will be heard before the Supreme Court on March 26.