A new California law signed by Governor Newsom on October 7 will enable strangers to lead children 12 and older on matters of mental health and their home life without requiring any parental consent. It’s a bizarre irony for a state that’s also suing the corporation Meta for harming children under age 13 through its social media platforms, based on the assumption that children are too vulnerable to resist the effects of social media. Evidently, children can’t resist their phones, but they should be able to make massive decisions about their minds, bodies, and family relationships without their parents’ consent.
The new law, Assembly Bill 665, expands an existing law that only applied to minors aged 12 and older with private health insurance. The new law includes minors aged 12 and older who are covered by publicly funded health insurance. Additionally, this new law broadens the list of professionals able to treat such minors from not only mental health professionals, clinical psychologists, and other licensed counselors, but also a “registered psychological assistant, a psychological trainee, an associate clinical social worker, a social work intern,” and more. The law also permits minors to pursue mental health services and residential shelter services without having to “present a danger of serious physical or mental harm to themselves or to others, or be the alleged victim of incest or child abuse.”
LGBTQ activists are celebrating the law as a huge victory for empowering at-risk “queer” youth. Director of California Policy Kim Lewis commended Governor Newsom for signing the new law, which will address “disparities” and provide “critical mental health services” for youth, “especially youth of color and LGBTQIA+ youth.”
However, far from empowering young people, California’s new law is rooted in a lie about what it means to be human. At the core of this bill is an idea that humans, including young people, are self-determined, self-defined beings who should have no restraints on what they desire or believe. Most importantly, the bill undermines the parent-child relationship, the most vital relationship for a child’s health and wellbeing. In its place, the law offers absolute autonomy to young people, despite their youth and immaturity.
This view of people, especially children, is deeply flawed. As Scripture teaches and reality confirms, our existence is owed to others–to God, first and foremost, and to mothers and fathers, according to God’s design. Mothers and fathers are those tasked with and best able to provide care for children, who are born vulnerable creatures dependent on love and nurturing in order to become healthy, independent adults.
Policies like AB 665 are predicated on “empowering” children by denying this dependence on parents, as well as the limits imposed by our Creator. In between the parents and children, this bill places agents of the state, who are allegiant to ideologies about children rather than the children themselves.
One California mom, Abigail Martinez, lost custody of her daughter after school counselors and the Department of Children and Family Services determined that she was not properly supporting her daughter’s transgender identity. The state agents claimed to know her daughter better than Abigail did, but they were tragically wrong. Months later, Abigail’s daughter took her own life.
Similar stories are found in other states. In fact, according to a new groundbreaking study, states where minors are free to consent to health services without parental permission experience higher youth suicide rates. And the consequences won’t end here. Bad ideas beget worse ideas. The only way to truly empower children is by protecting the rights of parents to protect their hearts, minds, and bodies. No other relationship can replace parental protection and guidance. Certainly the state cannot. This law leaves young people vulnerable to the malpractice of the Dr. Frankensteins of our cultural moment and will pave the way for further exploitation. The law claims to recognize that kids are capable of consent, but in reality it lets off the hook those adults who influence them.
Kids don’t need “empowerment.” They need parents. The way to help kids struggling with their mental health is by preserving and strengthening their relationships with those who, in most cases, know and love them best.
This Breakpoint was co-authored by Jared Eckert. To help us share Breakpoint with others, leave a review on your favorite podcast app. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to breakpoint.org.
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