Do It…..for the Children
A decades-old practice of dispensing birth control to students in Baltimore is generating new debate as schools are again offering a long-acting hormone implant as an option.
After Baltimore schools became the first in the nation to provide Norplant to students more than 20 years ago, city leaders say they continue to be pioneers in adolescent reproductive health. The school birth control program now offers an array of contraceptives and has been credited with reducing the city’s teen pregnancy rates to a record low.
This school year, the city began offering the hormone implant Nexplanon, which is implanted under the skin and lasts up to three years. Such an option hasn’t been available since Norplant was taken out of schools several years ago amid public controversy and lawsuits over its side effects.
Eight health centers in city schools that are run by the Baltimore City Health Department offer birth control to students in elementary through high school, though no grade-schoolers and only a handful of middle-schoolers obtained contraceptives through the program this school year. By state law, students don’t need parental consent to obtain contraceptives, no matter their age.
Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen said student access to birth control helped to cut the city’s teenage pregnancy rate by one-third from 2009 to 2014. Wen said that providing access to contraceptives is part of comprehensive reproductive education.
“You can give people all of the education you want, but unless they can access the treatment, where they are, in their schools, in their communities, then we’re not really giving people much of a choice at all,” Wen said. “It’s not education to just say, ‘Teen pregnancy is a problem.'”
The number of things that are wrong with the story are massive:
- The fact that birth control, condoms, and other sex-related services are being provided free of charge in public schools;
- The lack of education that teenagers are receiving about sex at home;
- The lack of parental notice given to teachers that their children are receiving birth control at school;
- The fact that children as young as the 6th grade have access to free contraceptives at school.
There are so many things that are problematic about this story, and few in either the education or the media seem to think that any of it is a problem. A Sun editorial seems appalled that anybody of faith or any parent would be opposed to this kind of behavior. But the fact is that schools have the ability to hand out condoms, birth control pills and birth control implants willy-nilly with no parental involvement whatsoever. This while, as Councilman Carl Stokes notes, “They need parental permission to take children to the zoo, but they can surgically implant such a thing into a child’s arm.”
He’s right. Almost any type of treatment that a minor receives at a doctor’s office or from the nurse at school requires parental permission. Except you can get all sorts of free goodies that encourage minors to have an active sex life, many of which have potential short and long-term side effects on the minor taking it.
Further consider the juxtaposition of school systems that are actively trying to rid schools of “unhealthy” foods and trying to teach kids “healthy” habits. Baltimore City schools two years ago went down the road of “fresh” vending concepts, and has implemented free breakfast and lunch for all students in an effort to help with their “heatlhy” nutrition. But they are still allowed to hand out drugs that contain dangerous hormones and tacitly encourage dangerous behaviors.
This isn’t about birth control, or even my moral opposition to its existence. What it is about though is the continued intrusion of public schools in parenting. Why should public schools replace the parent when it comes to the distribution of these materials? Why should public schools need permission to hand a 17-year old an asprin while simultaneously they can give birth control to kids as young as 11? On what planet does that make any sense?
The blame for all of this truly stems from the State Government. The General Assembly passed and the Governor signed a law in the 1970’s that allowed students to receive this kind of treatment without parental consent.. Four decades worth of students have had the opportunity to receive these type of drugs. And why? What good reason is there to allow this type of activity to continue.
Schools shouldn’t be in the business of handing out birth control. Period. The Maryland General Assembly has an opportunity to right this wrong by banning distribution of free birth control in public schools or, at the very least, repealing the 1970’s era law allowing distribution of birth control without parental consent. Schools should not be in the business of encouraging any type of sexual behavior or in providing hormone laced chemicals to underage students.
Do it for the children……