(U-WIRE) PITTSBURGH – The school committee of King Middle School in Portland, Maine, voted last week to allow the school’s independently operated clinic to offer students access to prescription birth control.
By a vote of seven to two, the board added prescription contraceptives to the list of services offered by the clinic, including dental, mental health and basic care services.
We can just hear the religious right and the conservatives raving right now. The people in Portland are a bunch of crazy liberals who don’t care about family values, they are saying.
Nick McGee, Portland’s Republican Party chairman told The New York Times, “It’s an attack on the moral fabric of our community, and a black eye for our state.”
But as much as this issue may anger Republicans, the fact of the matter is that many young teenagers are sexually active.
Instead of ignoring this fact, King Middle School is doing the right thing by facing it and preventing the problems that could arise as a result of it.
King Middle School’s independently operated clinic is much like a doctor’s office. Parents who would like their children to use the clinic must sign an informative waiver each year. The waiver lists all the services the clinic offers, so parents are always in the know.
The school board is not standing in the way of parents or taking the parents’ place by offering its facilities. Rather, it is making things easier for parents who want their children to use the clinic.
Other parents, who don’t want their kids to have access to clinic, are not obligated to sign their children up for it. It’s a win-win situation.
Both parents and children often find it difficult or uncomfortable to talk to one another about sex. As a result, kids end up having lots of misconceptions about sexual activity and safety.
13 and 14-year-olds can’t drive to the hospital or the doctor’s office on their own. So the clinic offers both children and parents another solution, a way out of the disastrous “birds and bees” mentality.
It allows kids access to birth control that they wouldn’t be able to obtain otherwise, preventing pregnancy and the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases.
At the same time, however, it is important that the school approach this matter with caution. When giving out contraceptives, confidentiality is key.
It would be unfortunate if a stigma were to arise surrounding the girls and boys who use the clinic.
It would also be problematic if children who do not have parental permission to use the clinic found a way to get contraceptives from friends who do have access to the clinic. The school should be aware of this possibility and take the necessary actions to counter it.
John Coyne, chairman of the school committee and one of the members who voted against the plan, told The New York Times that he was uncomfortable with the program, “There’s no talk about the health issues and the possible long-term ill effects on these young ladies.”
We hope that this is not the case.
The clinic should be as much a center to teach children about birth control and sex, about how and why to use contraceptives, as it is a place where sexually active children can get contraceptives. Otherwise, it will not be as helpful as it aims to be.