Portland School Birth Control Controversy

A hail of controversy fell upon a middle school in Portland, Maine, when its school committee voted 7-2 on Wednesday to provide prescription birth control to middle schoolers as young as eleven. The first middle school in Maine to make full range of contraceptive options available, the King Middle School may be among the first middle schools in the United States providing a broad range of contraceptive options, said the National Assembly of School-Based Health Centers.

The school's nurse, Amanda Rowe, had proposed the policy change after five students out of a student body of 134 told her that they were sexually active. Parents need to sign consent forms to enable their children to use the school health center, and will be notified of the full range of health services offered and the confidentiality requirements to which the clinic adheres. But the details of the students' treatment and care will be kept confidential.

Of the three middle schools in Portland, King is the only one with a school health clinic, primarily because it has a high percentage of students who are eligible for a free or reduced-price school lunch, an indication of family poverty.

The health center at King Middle School has offered condoms since its inception in 2000, and high schoolers have had access to birth control pills and other contraceptive methods since 2003. Patches, injections, and Plan B will all now be offered at King Middle, but diaphragms and IUDs are not usually prescribed, said health officials. Prepubescent children couldn't obtain prescriptions, and school health workers would provide follow-up care for students who do obtain birth control prescriptions.

Critics of the school committee decision have suggested that when students as young as eleven present to their school nurse as sexually active, nurses should contact the Department of Social Services rather than prescribe birth control. Others have alleged that a school nurse's right to distribute birth control undermines "responsible" families.

But some policy supporters understand that the realities of children's lives today have become much more complicated and communications hurdles within families more intractable. The Portland Press Herald reported that King Middle's principal, Michael McCarthy, "said the change is meant to help a few King students who, for whatever reason, have no other access to reproductive health care."

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  • http://www.caitlainscorner.com invalid-0

    who are whining about the availability of BC in this school make it sound like the school is practically forcing the kids to get on BC.

    Reproductive health care has been, in the vast majority of states, available to those 12 and older without parental consent (through Title X), so the school’s policy is clearly in line with federal law. I’d bet good money most parents don’t realize that, though.

    Anyway, there is no logical argument for denying kids this age access to BC. They’re going to be sexually active whether they have easy access to it or not (obviously), so the only sane thing to do is make it available. Perhaps it will prevent one or more unwanted pregnancies. How can any reasonable person argue against that?