Big Bend Reproductive Coalition co-signs amicus brief supporting minor autonomy 

Big Bend Reproductive Coalition co-founders Mo Eldridge and Lisa Kettyle address the crowd at a fundraising event at El Cosmico in August of 2022. Photo by Hannah Gentiles.

BIG BEND — The Big Bend Reproductive Coalition recently co-signed an amicus brief, an informational legal document meant to offer insights on a particular case, to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals with Jane’s Due Process, an organization which helps teens access birth control and abortions. 

The brief was filed in a case concerning minor autonomy that originated in an Amarillo court. Alexander Deanda, the father of three minors who lives in Amarillo, sued officials with the Department of Health and Human Services claiming Title X, a program which allows minors to get confidential access to reproductive care without parental consent, was a violation of his constitutional rights to steer the upbringing of his children and was in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled in Deanda’s favor in December of 2022 and the defendants appealed the decision in February 2023. 

Lisa Kettyle, co-founder of the BBRC, said the purpose of the amicus brief is to inform and provide opinions and experiences to the federal appeals court on the need to protect the autonomy and privacy of minors accessing reproductive healthcare. And while the brief focuses on the Deanda case, the arguments made were relevant to cases that could come about, especially during a time where state government actions have stripped away reproductive rights for individuals.

“It’s something that’s really important,” said Kettyle. “When youth don’t have access to confidential and private medical care, sometimes it can put them in danger. Not every kid is part of a loving, supportive family who believes that everybody should have autonomy over their own bodies.”

The brief, which was co-signed by over 130 state and national organizations, makes the case that Title X is essential and needs to remain in place. Whether parents are unavailable, disapprove of the use of contraceptives due to religious beliefs, and more — scenarios for which Jane’s Due Process provides real life examples — the program’s existence was vital in ensuring the health and safety of the state’s youth populations. 

“Young people who cannot access birth control when they desire it face the risk and reality of harms to their sexual and reproductive health,” reads the brief. “When independent, confidential access is available, young people are more likely to seek and obtain birth control, allowing them to proactively make decisions about their health and futures.” 

In the small towns of Far West Texas, where anonymity can be hard to come by, Kettyle said the argument for youth autonomy over reproductive healthcare is relevant, and she hopes local teens are able to access reproductive resources when they need them without feeling stigmatized.

“They need to be able to get [information and services] and they need to be able to get it discreetly,” said Kettyle. “We think it’s important for kids to be able to talk to their medical professionals about it on their own — ‘How does my body work? How do I keep myself safe? What is birth control? How do I use it?’ All that kind of stuff.”  

The amicus brief cosigning marks BBRC’s first time participating in such an initiative, said Kettyle, but is something it would like to continue to pursue. 

The BBRC is coming up on its one year anniversary, and since initially getting organized last July, has started an emergency contraceptive care kit program for the tri-county area, has obtained a pro-bono lawyer specializing in reproductive rights through the Forefront Project, is currently working on establishing an abortion fund, and more. 

Kettyle said the organization has around 50 volunteers, but is looking to grow and has a variety of opportunities for those interested in helping out. 

“There’s room for anyone and everyone for what they want to do. From translating materials all the way to graphic design down to throwing events and educating folks,” said Kettyle. “So if people want to get involved, I really encourage them to visit the website and shoot us an email.” 

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