California AG: Medical Emancipation Statutes 'Ambiguious'

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer backed away Tuesday from his opinion that public schools would be required to not inform parents when their children leave the school for “confidential medical services” such as abortion, AIDS testing, and psychological analysis or would violate “medical emancipation” statutes guaranteeing confidentiality.

Lockyer’s office had issued an opinion on the matter on Nov. 29 at the request of Solano County Counsel Dennis Bunting. In the opinion, he explained that a California law requiring that school districts notify parents to the effect of the medical statutes means the schools must bring to the attention of both parents and students that students can be excused from school for confidential medical appointments without parental consent, not that parents are to be notified when their children are excused for that purpose.

“[T]he Legislature has protected students’ rights to informational privacy, specifically regarding confidential medical services...and disclosure of personal information to school counselors,” said Lockyer.

But during his Tuesday appearance on a radio talk show “Paul and Phil Unplugged” for a Sacramento-based radio station, Lockyer called the law allowing minors to receive certain medical services without their parents’ consent or knowledge “ambiguous.”

"There is a need for the legislature to clarify it,” he said on KSTE AM 650.

Lockyer said he did believe that any school districts would face a lawsuit if they did notify the parents.

"It is clear that Lockyer has no confidence in his own opinion," said Karen England of Capitol Resource Institute.

"Lockyer is a politician and a lawyer. He will read into the law what is necessary to pursue his political goals. His political ideology dictates that minors should be emancipated to make their own personal medical decisions. It's not surprising that, using circular legal arguments, he came to the conclusion that he did."

England noted that Lockyer failed to cite one single case or statute that supports a school district's authority to facilitate minors leaving campus during school hours

"It would have been easy for Lockyer to find legal rationale for school districts, as a matter of local control, to notify parents any time their children leave campus. But he chose not to do this.

"At Capitol Resource Institute, we do not believe that school districts should be part of a conspiracy to keep secrets from parents,” England concluded.

Petitions for a California ballot initiative requiring an abortionist to notify one of the parents or guardian of a minor girl before performing the abortion on the girl is already underway. As of December 10, the “Parents Right 2 Know” Web site (www.parentsright2know.org) reported 95,155 signatures of 598,105 required to place the initiative on the ballot.