No, Says the judge. That would be illegal.

A federal judge in New York City has blocked—at least temporarily—a federal regulation requiring parents to be notified when minors receive prescription contraceptives. The rule would have applied to all family planning clinics receiving any federal financing. It was set to take effect late last month.

Judge Henry F. Werker said the regulation is invalid because it subverts the intention of Congress to combat teenage pregnancy, and that notification of parents when minors receive contraceptives would work against that intention. The temporary injunction applies to some 5,000 family clinics around the country. The Justice Department will appeal the action.

In 1970, Congress added a section known as Title 10 to the Public Health Service Act. The provision provided federal money for public and private family-planning agencies. Congress amended the law in 1978 to require that services be given to adolescents, because it said teen-age pregnancies were a critical problem.

The rule would have required that parents be notified within 10 days when prescription contraceptives were given to teen-agers under 18 and under parental care. There were exceptions in cases of suspected child abuse or incest.

During congressional hearings on the regulation, George Ryan, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, called it a smokescreen for “turning back the clock on sexual attitudes.” He said, “The idea that we’re all going to have a Robert Young, ‘Father Knows Best’ kind of family is just not reality.”

Richard Schweiker, then secretary of Health and Human Services, argued however that “in every other area of their lives, parents are involved and held responsible.… It is paradoxical that when it comes to prescribing drugs and devices with potentially serious health consequences, federal policy has not recognized parental responsibility and involvement.”

Instead Of Jail, She Is Sentenced To A Religious Community

Last November 21, 18-year-old Ann Marie O’Brien set fire to her house, resulting in the death of her nine-year-old brother. She pleaded guilty to manslaughter and could have been jailed for 10 years. But the judge, family members, even the prosecuting lawyers, agreed that this time imprisonment was not the answer. O’Brien reportedly wept openly, sometimes uncontrollably, at all her court appearances. Her attorney explained that she lit the fire to express pent-up frustrations over parental restrictions on her social life and that “she very honestly had not thought of the consequences.” Four court-appointed psychiatrists who examined O’Brien said her guilt would be with her a lifetime. They advised against incarceration.

After extensive conversations with the attorneys, a probation officer, O’Brien’s parents, and the psychiatrists, and after summoning O’Brien to his chambers four times to discuss the crime, Superior Court Judge Fred Galda determined that “jail would kill her.” He decided instead to allow O’Brien to spend 30 months at a Newark, New Jersey, Roman Catholic charismatic community called the People of Hope.

Newark Bishop Joseph Francis called the sentence “very unusual, but very creative.” He said, “The prison system as we presently have it is too harsh and too cruel punishment for certain offenders, especially in the category of this girl.” Richard Muti, the prosecutor, stated in court: “The event may well be categorized more a tragedy than a crime. Incarceration in prison will destroy this person. The state has no wish to compound the tragedy the O’Brien family has suffered.”

The People of Hope, started 11 years ago, is a close-knit community of more than 1,000 members. Some of them have troubled or rootless pasts, but O’Brien will be the first member accepted in lieu of a jail term. The community’s director, James Ferry, says they are taking a risk. “A few years ago we would not have had the stability to do this,” he said. “Today, when the need arose, the Lord wouldn’t let me get it out of my mind.”

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