Thursday, October 18, 2007

How young is too young?

Oh dear! I saw the birth control pills, now I want the sex!

Sometimes you just see the HEADLINE of a story and you know it's gonna be trouble... For example, today I saw this on CNN and MSN's homepage:

“Maine middle school to offer birth control.”

Now, we all know the anti-choice movement is adamant in its opposition to birth control. I’ve discussed that dirty secret on another blog. While the overwhelming majority of Americans support contraceptive access for adult women, the lines get fuzzier when it comes to children. Hence the debate about sex education and access for minors.

A middle school health center prescribing birth control is surely going to spark debate.

At King Middle School in Portland, Maine young girls age 11-13 can now access birth control without consent from parents. This thought makes a lot of people uncomfortable. From the comment field on the MSN story:

No---this is a moral issue. They should keep their pants ON!!!!

NO NO NO. How can parents think/feel that THEY should not be responsible for their children's lives and leave it up to a school board????

Absolutely not. People seem to love undermining parents when it comes to their own children these days. If they are going to offer it, parental consent MUST be necessary for each individual thing administered to the student

Hell no! Since when do we allow our CHILDREN to make those kinds of decisions! I am completely disgusted

I don't see how this is even legal and do most 11 year olds even have a period?

It goes on and on… it does make me squirmy to think of girls having sex. Actually it makes me downright depressed. Of course sex isn’t healthy for children. But it makes me far less squirmy to know that IF these kids are having sex, they are taking some adult responsibility to protect themselves.

Clearly 11 year old girls DO get their period. As evidenced by the stats from the schools in Portland, Maine.

Portland's three middle schools reported 17 pregnancies during the last four years, not counting miscarriages or terminated pregnancies that weren't reported to the school nurse.

Also according to the article, “Five of the 134 students who visited King's health center during the 2006-07 school year reported having sexual intercourse” – not counting all the students who didn’t disclose or didn’t report other forms of sexual activitiy.

Some parents don’t like the idea that birth control will be prescribed without parental consent. Others feel that this will encourage sexual activity; some are even claiming that this “goes against God.”

I find no merit in hypothesizing on what angers God. However, I hope that parents do their research and realize that the availability of contraceptives should not encourage sex, but simply protect the sexually active. Also, if you already have a good relationship with your child, chances are they’ll discuss options with you anyway.

According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy:

Teenagers who have strong emotional attachments to their parents are much less likely to become sexually active at an early age. Also parents rate high among many teens as trustworthy and preferred information sources on birth control. One in two teens say they "trust" their parents most for reliable and complete information about birth control, only 12 percent say a friend.

Therefore if you’re committed to having honest dialogue with your kids, then you’ll likely have a positive affect. From the same site, we understand the consequences of unprotected sex is devesatating for teens:

A sexually active teen who does not use contraception has a 90 percent chance of pregnancy within one year. Teen mothers are less likely to complete high school and are likely to end up on welfare (nearly 80 percent of unmarried teen mothers end up on welfare). The sons of teen mothers are 13 percent more likely to end up in prison while teen daughters are 22 percent more likely to become teen mothers themselves.

We know that some minors will have sex. If we ignore this fact, we are denying basic healthcare to protect young men and women. The availability of birth control doesn’t mean kids will start having sex. That is much more dependent on the relationships children have with their parents or other moral force (faith community, mentor etc).

When it comes to kids, where do we draw the line at access? Condoms? The patch? The pill? Or should we just teach them to “JUST SAY NO”?

Since 2000, King Middle School students have had access to condoms. With this new policy, birth control prescriptions will be given only after a student undergoes a physical exam by a physician or nurse practitioner. Furthermore students must have written parental permission to be treated at the health center. Howevever, once permission is attained, the student's medical records are confidential so parents would now know if their daughters were prescribed birth control.

According to the article:

About one-fourth of student health centers that serve at least one grade of adolescents 11 and older dispense some form of contraception, said Mohan, whose Washington-based organization represents more than 1,700 school-based centers nationwide.

In other parts of the country, things are very different. In Topeka, Kansas, school district policy forbids providing any contraceptives to students.

What would you like YOUR school to offer? Or what should YOUR kid's have for options?

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