[Edited 5/31/17 to remove expired links]

Dear Champion of Parental Rights,

You scored a minor victory for parental rights in New Jersey on Monday, and there’s a good chance you didn’t even know it. On January 11, the New Jersey Senate voted to adopt the proposed changes to A3435, which the governor provisionally vetoed in November.

We learned last June about A3435, a bill that would allow children of any age to grant legal consent for behavioral and mental health care – without even consulting a parent. But it had almost slipped past us. We became aware of the bill very late in the session. [Ed. note: We originally said “on the last day,” but we actually learned of the bill in the final 2 weeks or so before its passage.]

It was too late to block this assault on parents and children in the legislature, so we penned a strong letter to Governor Christie and asked you to call him as well. Other allied organizations joined us as well. Together we urged him to veto the measure.

And the governor listened.

Governor Christie sent the bill back to the legislature demanding that they make three major changes to the bill, or he would veto it. The changes he stipulated were: (1) it would apply only to children age 16 or older; (2) it could not be used to prescribe medication; and (3) it would apply only to outpatient treatment.

A3435 is not a parental rights-friendly bill, and we would have liked to see a full veto. But with these changes, the bill’s impact on parental rights is greatly reduced. Protecting children by keeping parents involved in prescriptions and patient in-take decisions, as well as setting the minimum age requirement for minor-consent at 16 (rather than the original, which was literally no limit at all!), are huge improvements.

To be clear, lowering the age of consent for behavioral and mental health from 18 to 16 is a rejection of parental rights in that two-year window. We are still opposed to this move, and would like to see it repealed in the future.

But given that the original bill passed by a veto-proof majority in both houses, it is amazing that both bodies agreed to consider the governor’s changes at all. They had the votes to push back with the original version and win.

Instead, the Assembly voted (52-10) on December 3 to adopt an amended version of A3435 with the governor’s recommendations. The Senate voted (36-0) to approve the changes on Monday.

In the face of the original bill, seeing these changes approved is a significant victory for parental rights – one you fought for in June and finally received this week.

Thank you for answering the call and standing with us to protect children by defending parental rights in your state!

Sincerely,

Michael Ramey
Director of Communications & Research