18 October 2007

Schools prescribing birth control?

A middle school in Maine has made the decision to prescribe birth control pills to its female students without requiring parental consent.

The school in question is one of the few schools in the district to have an on-site clinic, apparently because of the high percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunches. I discussed the ramifications of the nanny state in the school and the slippery slope of allowing the government to offer additional, non-education-related services to students a few days ago. This is quite clearly another case.

I went to middle school and high school in an urban area - the high school I attended was over 60% African-American, and was gang-infested. I understand the problems many kids have coping with that environment, the tremendous amount of peer pressure, and goodness knows I made quite a few stupid choices myself during my middle school and high school years. Many of the students are not going to have two positive parental role models, and many of the students will be lucky to even have one. And sure, an eleven-year-old is not emotionally mature to make choices about sex and birth control, although she's probably going to be already making some choices about sex at that age. But putting the schools in the position of providing birth control to students is opening too many cans of worms.

First, there are the implications of having the school step in as an authority that may be circumventing parental wishes. I think it's likely that at least a few parents who don't want their child receiving birth control will refuse to sign the parental consent form allowing their child access to the clinic. This will decrease the student population that is served by the clinic. For instance, if Catholic students attend King Middle School, it's possible their parents will no longer allow them to seek health care from the school clinic. I'm pretty 'liberal' when it comes to birth control, but I think I'd be furious if my child went to her school clinic and was offered birth control. Offering a kid birth control is going to lead at least a few kids to think they need to use it, maybe earlier than they would have if it wasn't shoved in their faces.

Second, does the school really not have educational needs to spend their money on?

And third, can the school afford the financial and political ramifications if a student has medical problems due to taking birth control pills the school has prescribed? I don't think that when my daughter is eleven I will have discussed the medical reasons I had to stop taking the very birth control pills the CNN article uses as a graphic, or how taking the pill made both me and my mother so hormonally insane that it almost ruined our lives before we each clued in (at about the same time - my mother was on the pill as a hormone replacement late in life) that we were poisoning ourselves with birth control pills.

I know that denying a young girl birth control probably won't stop her from having sex - if anything, it's likely to make her act out even more. But schools have to stop trying to take over every aspect of parental responsibilities. If the Portland School District feels so strongly about having birth control available to students, maybe they should ask Planned Parenthood about putting offices near existing schools. This would allow the school district to continue to provide health services to in-need students without parents having to worry about whether birth control is being offered to their children against parental wishes, the school won't be opening themselves up for a lawsuit when a girl drops dead of a blood clot or starts acting out because the pill made her crazy.

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