A controversial new law in California, Assembly Bill 499, allows minors between the ages of 12 and 17 to receive vaccinations and preventative treatment for sexually transmitted diseases without first obtaining parental consent. This includes the vaccine that prevents HPV infections in girls and women. HPV can cause cervical cancer in many who are infected. Several other states have passed laws either allowing or mandating this particular vaccine, and these moves have been quite controversial. Supporters of the California law, which was introduced by Democratic Assembly Member Toni Atkins of San Diego, say that it provides needed protection for children aged 12 to 17 years from serious health concerns. Opponents have expressed concern over both the safety of the vaccines themselves and the broader implications for parental rights to make decisions regarding their children's health. The law could have an interesting effect on the practice of San Diego divorce law, both in how parents approach the issue of medical decisions in negotiation or litigation and in how attorneys draft divorce and custody decrees.
Before AB 499 became law in August of this year, California did not allow teens access to preventative treatments for STD's without parental permission. Teens already had the legal right to seek treatment for existing infections without notifying their parents. Proponents have acknowledged that parental involvement is ideal, but not always possible. Part of the rationale offered for the new law is teenagers' need to access preventative health care regardless of their family situation, such as where parents are absent, abusive, or suffering from addictions or disabilities that might prevent them from engaging in the child's health care decisions. Critics have argued that this is too great a burden to place on children as young as 12, and that the law should emphasize uniting parents and children rather than separating them.