King Middle School in Maine has recently decided to give their students (11-15 year olds) access to contraceptives, including the hormonal birth control pill, through a medical clinic attached to the school ( http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/story.php?id=142522&ac=PHedi ).
Parents must sign a permission slip in order for their children to be treated at the clinic, but it is presented as permission to treat in the case of accident or illness. Children requesting birth control from the clinic will be issued their contraceptives without parental consent or notification of this. Maine law also, somehow, provides doctor patient confidentiality for 11 year olds which keeps parents from having access to their child's medical information with regard to the clinic.
While many people applaud the school for giving these children access and believe it will help prevent pregnancy and provide them with appropriate medical care, I think there are some serious problems with this.
1. Contraceptive medications are not without risks. They can cause blood clots to occur, among other things, and even death. If the parents are not aware of their child being on this medication they will not be able to protect against potentially dangerous medical interactions with other medications etc... While Birth control is one of the most widely used medications out there; it is still a drug and it still has the potential to be dangerous when used incorrectly or under certain circumstances.
2. These children quite likely will not reliably take their medication. I think it is pretty unrealistic to expect that 11-15 year old kids will remember to take their pill every day and at the correct time. Likely they will forget doses and still believe that they are protected from pregnancy (no matter how many times they are warned that they are not). They are also unlikely to remember or pay attention to drug interactions that will cause BC to be unreliable. Antibiotics are pretty commonly prescribed medications, they often render hormonal birth control ineffective.
3. Lets keep in mind that the teens who are most likely to engage in sex at 11-15 are those who are less responsible and already at risk due to other factors in their home/school life. These factors also probably will make them less likely to properly and reliably use birth control.
4. Contraceptives other than condoms do not protect against STI's but often do give people a false sense of security. With teens, especially, you have the problem of "It can't happen to me" thinking when it comes to STI's.
5. How do we know that it is safe to give adolescents hormonal birth control? With their hormones coming to maturity and all over the place, naturally, it seems like it probably isn't the best thing to do.
As a parent I can say that I would be terribly upset if my daughter was given any medication without my consent. In the case of contraceptives I would be unlikely to accept any excuse. Whether or not my daughter would choose to engage in sex at such a young age (and I hope not), is a matter for us to discuss. But the main issue I have with it is that I feel like it would put her at risk, and that by not informing me of that risk and the danger signs to look for the risk is exponentially increased.
If, for whatever reason, I decided my daughter needed to be on birth control at a young age I think that it would be a choice I would want to fully research and decide upon based on what is the safest route for my child (and this decision made in conjunction with her doctor, not her school).
I do realize that there are some children who have parents who do not parent them etc.. and that these are the children that this policy is aiming to help, but I think in the end this policy endangers more kids than it helps... given the above questions.