Deal W. Hudson
October 18, 2007
Bishop Richard J. Malone is “outraged” about the decision of the Portland, Maine, school board to make birth control pills available to 6th-, 7th-, and 8th-grade girls at King Middle School. On Wednesday, the Portland School Committee voted 5-2 to make contraceptive pills available to girls, ages 11 to 13, at the student health center.
What makes this decision even more unbelievable is that the girls can receive the pills without parental permission. Students are required to have a parent’s permission to go to the health center, but subsequent treatment is confidential.
In other words, it’s up to the student to notify her parents about any treatment she receives. (It seems pretty unlikely that a daughter would come home from 6th grade and say to her parents, “Hey, Mom and Dad, I went on the pill today.”)
The only way parents can make sure their daughter does not receive contraceptives is by signing a statement barring them from using the school’s health service entirely.
In other words, families have to give up the medical services paid for by their tax money in order to protect their children from being given medical intervention that contradicts their religious beliefs.
A wrongheaded solution
Condoms have been made available at King Middle School since 2002. As it turns out, that’s not unusual. “About one-fourth of student health centers that serve at least one grade of adolescents 11 and older dispense some form of contraception,” said Divya Mohan, a spokeswoman for the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care.
Proponents of the new Portland policy argue that many parents don’t act to “protect” their sexually active children. Only five of the 134 students who visited King’s health center during the 2006-07 school year reported having had sexual intercourse.
Rita Feeney, president of Maine Right to Life, commented: “This is the traditional doublespeak of people and organizations who claim they would counsel young children to avoid early sexual activity but then actively assist them in participating in risky behaviors, they say, because they’re going to do it anyway.”
Peter Doyle, a former middle school teacher, said the proposal violates the rights of parents, potentially ignoring their special knowledge of their children’s health, and puts young girls at risk of cancer from too early use of hormone-based contraceptives.
“You all are going to be responsible for the devastating effects on young women when this goes through,” he told the Associated Press.
Brian Gail, a Catholic writer from Philadelphia, is hosting a symposium on the dangers of contraception at this year’s Catholic Leadership Conference to be held in Charleston, South Carolina, October 25-26. Gail organized the CLC symposium because he predicted the pervasive contraceptive mentality would result in decisions like that of the Portland school board.
Sadly, Gail’s forecast came true just one week before the start of the symposium.
Gail told the Window, “The decision to provide hormonal contraceptives to middle school children defies incredulity. Last year the Mayo Clinic published the results of a comprehensive study which concluded that young women who use the pill for eight years before their first full-term pregnancy are 36 percent more likely to contract breast cancer later in life.”
Bishop Malone issued a formal statement later in the day. We can only hope his outrage will translate into a reversal of the school board decision. It’s absolutely unacceptable to exclude parents from the medical attention given to their children. It’s contrary to nature, and it should be contrary to law.