October 31 2007, 4:55 PM
Birth control in public schools has been a hot topic this week. As The Denver Post explains:
Health clinics in six Denver high schools should be allowed to dispense birth control and emergency contraceptive pills, according to a new report by a health task force. "This is a real controversial issue," said Paul Melinkovich, who directs Denver Health's school-based clinics. "But teenagers are sexually active, and teen pregnancy is one of the largest reasons for the dropout of girls from high schools." In Denver, the teen birth rate is more than double the statewide rate, according to 2003 data - the most recent available - from the Colorado Children's Campaign, an organization that tracks the welfare of young people in Colorado. Of every 1,000 girls ages 15-17 in the city, 54.5 will become pregnant n the city, compared with 24.3 throughout Colorado, according to the campaign. The recommendation comes from a task force created to help define the future of 12 school-based health clinics, six in high schools and six in middle schools. Denver Health - the city's safety-net health care provider - runs the clinics because many DPS students lack access to basic health care, Melinkovich said... ...Lolita Hanks, who was a teenager when she had her first child and now is on the board of Colorado Right to Life, said she would oppose giving children access to birth control through the schools. "That is not the purview of the schools," Hanks said. "It will encourage more sexual activity." Destiny Baca, a junior at Denver's North High School who works as a nurse's aide in the school's clinic, supports the idea of dispensing prescription birth control there. "It's better than them having babies," said Baca, 17. "A lot of girls in this school are pregnant or they have kids already."I understand that providing birth control in public schools is a controversial topic, but if it is controversial, it should be for logical reasons. What really irritates me in this debate are comments like those of Lolita Hanks who say that providing birth control will encourage more sexual activity. I've never understood why you would be anti-abortion and anti-birth control, but that's not my main gripe here. What drives me nuts is this asinine statement, certainly not unique to Ms. Hanks, that providing birth control will encourage kids to have sex. Um...kids are already having sex. Ms. Hanks says that she had her first child as a teenager but is opposed to schools providing birth control under the notion that it will lead more kids to have sex. I would assume that her school did not provide birth control, yet she obviously had sex as a teenager. Teenage pregnancy rates have been a constant problem for years while schools have refrained from offering birth control. Teenage sex won't become a problem if schools offer condoms or birth control pills - it already IS a problem. The number of teenage girls having sex has quadrupled in the last 50 years. It makes no sense whatsoever to say that birth control access would lead to more sex, since kids are obviously having sex anyway. It's not like having access to birth control suddenly gives a teenager the idea that sex is possible. If you give me a bulletproof vest, I'm not going to go get in a gunfight; but if I do happen to be in a gun battle, at least I'll have something to wear. It is logically absurd to fight birth control advocacy in favor of clearly ineffective abstinence-only plans, because the numbers clearly prove otherwise. If you don't believe in birth control because of religious reasons, that's an entirely reasonable argument. But it's not reasonable to blindly push the idea that more condoms equal more sex. And even if that were true, then at least those kids who are having more sex would be using birth control. The issue isn't just that girls are having sex, it's that girls are having sex and getting pregnant. There's a big difference. On another side of this argument, I understand that parents want to be involved in this decision with their kids. But, really, what difference is the discussion going to make? Are you going to tell your daughter not to use birth control if she asks? You can discuss not having sex whenever you want. You don't need to have a bowl of condoms as an ice-breaker. I have a 14-month-old daughter, and it scares the holy crap out of me when I think that she might be having sex as a teenager. I will absolutely try to convince her to wait to have sex, but I'm not naive enough to believe that it will work. At the very least, I hope and pray that she will use birth control if she does decide to have sex, and I really don't care where she gets the contraceptives so long as she protects herself. Whether she asks me, her mother or the school nurse for condoms is really not that important in the end; all that matters to me is that she asks somebody. We can slow the rate of teenage pregnancies if we stop using logic contraceptives every time the topic is brought up.