Critics Push Back at CA Law Granting Rights to Minors without Parental Knowledge

( – California Governor Gavin Newsom signed bill AB665 into law on October 7, purportedly with the aim of expanding access to mental healthcare for minors. Critics, however, have decried the bill as being an attempt to undermine parental rights and increase the state’s control over children.

Bill 665 expanded an existing law that former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed off in 2010. The Republican governor approved a bill that allowed minors between the age of 12 and 17 years old to seek treatment from residential shelter services and other mental healthcare providers without parental consent. This bill, however, applied to private health treatment. A fact sheet written by Democrat Senator Mark Leno at the time emphasised the “barrier” to treatment formed by the need to obtain parental consent, particularly amongst children described as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

The latest bill, AB665, has increased the reach of the former law as it includes healthcare and residential shelter services provided by Medi-Cal as well as by private healthcare providers. Some critics have asserted that the bill will allow the state to remove children from their parents’ care. The bill does not appear to alter the state’s current procedures for seeking to remove children from parental care, although it does allow children to seek mental health treatment without their parents’ approval.

As such, parents may find that their child is able to see a medical or therapeutic professional who would affirm the child’s so-called ‘transgender identity’ against the parents’ wishes. The bill, does not, however, make provisions for a minor to receive hormonal or surgical interventions without parental consent.

Supporters of the bill include the California Alliance of Child and Family Services, whose CEO Christine Stoner-Mertz commended Newsom for signing the bill into law and added that she hoped the bill would help to improve outcomes for children who are in foster care, children described as LGBT, and children who are racial minorities. The majority of children whose healthcare is covered by Medi-Cal are racial minorities.

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