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NYCLU Releases New Guide to Adolescent Health Care Rights

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NEW YORK ‒ The New York Civil Liberties Union today released Teenagers, Health Care, and the Law, an updated guide to teenagers’ rights to medical consent and confidentiality under New York State and federal law. This latest edition includes new information regarding the rights of transgender teenagers, confidentiality for health services in school settings, and consent for services such as the HPV vaccine and HIV treatment. 
“As Washington continues to take aim at restricting our access to critical health care, it is more important than ever for every New Yorker to know their rights, especially young people and the professionals they rely on for support,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. 
Research shows many teenagers do not get the healthcare they need, often out of fear that health care providers will disclose confidential information to parents or guardians. In many circumstances, however, the law allows teens to consent to their own medical treatment confidentially, including reproductive or mental health care.

“Too few young people understand how to advocate for their own health care, and too few educators and health providers know how to support them,” said Catherine Weiss, chair of the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest, which co-authored the publication. “This guide is designed to help providers navigate the law so that so that young people can get the care they need.”

Teenagers, Healthcare and the Law is a resource for doctors, nurses, mental health professionals and social workers who work with young adults. Adolescent healthcare providers have used previous editions of the publication to train staff on privacy and consent issues related to certain health services, including treatment for substance abuse, reproductive health care, and mental health care. 
“As a social worker in a health care setting, I use this guide to help teens understand their rights here in my clinic, as well as in other settings and institutions,” said Kait Klipsch-Abudu, LMSW. “It is important for young people to know what they can and cannot consent to on their own, especially for LGBTQ+ identified people, incarcerated young people or young people trying to access reproductive or abortion services.”
Young people in New York have the right to consent to services like mental health counseling, contraception, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and reproductive health care confidentially and independently. 
“Two years ago I didn’t know that I could go to a Planned Parenthood office and get testing done without my parents,” said Giovana Lorenzotti, a senior at the NYC iSchool in Manhattan and member of the NYCLU Teen Activist Project. “This information is important for me to be an individual with autonomy in my healthcare.” 
“Young people should know what kind of healthcare services we can ask for confidentially when we go into a doctor’s appointment,” said Anna Garrison-Bedell, a senior at Bard High School Early College Queens and member of the NYCLU Teen Activist Project. “If you don’t know, you might be nervous and less likely to talk to a doctor about what you need.” 
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