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October 19, 2007

Youth access to contraception

The news that schools in Portland, Maine, will allow their health clinics to dispense birth control pills to middle schoolers without parental permission generated enough national buzz to make the Today show.

Here in Baltimore, we've been giving out birth control at school-based health centers for more than 20 years. In 1993, we created international news with our program to give girls Norplant. 

In our article today, medical reporter Stephanie Desmon and I look back at the history of dispensing birth control to Maryland kids, and the effects. The state's law that allows minors access to contraception without parental consent is credited with a big drop in births to teen mothers, especially in Baltimore. But some parents and activists feel strongly that the law is wrong, as are policies such as Portland's. If middle schoolers are having sex, the critics say, there are bigger problems that adults need to know about.

Which side of the fence do you stand on? Does the benefit of preventing a pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease outweigh a parent's right to make medical decisions for a child?

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:06 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Baltimore City, Trends


I believe as long as you are going to categorize parent and child, that relationship and the responsibilites inherent to it must be upheld. If you are going to hold a parent legally responsible then you must also recognize the parent's legal rights. I don't know of any medical insurance which would prevent access to treatment of a sexually transmitted disease or pregnancy prevetion for the policy holder or their dependents. So it stands to reason, why would this need to be administered through schools. The only benefit this serves is to further cause a wedge between the child and the parent.

Furthermore, from a health perspective, why would we give hormones to our children who are still growing and have yet to regulate their own hormones? It makes me crazy because people think a pill or a shot is going to solve all the world's problems! Wake up People!!!!!

I absolutely support schools providing birth control. I would hope that I have the kind of relationship with my kids that they wouldn't go this route, but not every family is like mine. Unwanted pregnancy is usually preventable and can be a tragedy-for everyone involved. I remember when I was in high school and Life magazine did an issue on teenagers-and Baltimore was singled out for teenage pregnancies. I would like to live in a world where no 12 and 13 years olds are having sex, unfortunately we don't.

14 year old students I have are having sex, or are at least are thinking about it all of the time. Many are trapped in a mentality of "I need to keep and hold a man," so they will say yes. Many who are also in poverty either don't have health insurance, or their mothers will not take them to the clinic/doctor. The reduction that Sara points out is real. And I think that parents do have a right to be involved legally and morally (So, be involved!). The students I know that get pregnant at an early age end up still living with parents, grandparents. It is crazy! But, when sex filled messages permeate every media outlet today, what else should we expect? The number one celebrity on MySpace (I forget her name-- I just saw something on Access Hollywood today) is touting the fact that she has sex with both males and females, "because I just love humans."

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