School Clinic Dispenses Birth Control Without Parental Consent

By Jered Ede | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - Students at a Northern California school district now have low to no-cost access to contraceptives, including the controversial Plan B, at a high school clinic. The Santa Rosa City Board of Education cleared the way in late May for the Elsie Allen High School clinic to prescribe and distribute the contraceptives to students from the entire school district.

This, coupled with California's Minor Consent Laws, allows students as young as 14 to receive birth control patches, oral and intravenous birth control, the "morning after pill" and condoms, all without the notification of their parents, according to the California Teen Health website.

But a conservative critic of the plan says it will promote sexual activity and allow students as young as 12 to access the birth control products, including Plan B, which is taken orally and intended to block a pregnancy during the first 72 hours after intercourse.

The Santa Rosa City Board of Education's policy stipulates that any other types of prescribed medication - non-birth control related and for such afflictions as asthma -- administered to students must be accompanied by parental consent, and even acknowledgement of a clinician in some cases.

The dispersal of the birth control products is a one-year pilot program initiated last month after the Southwest Health Clinic of Santa Rosa urged action to curb the teen pregnancy rates at Elsie Allen High School. Last year, Elsie Allen's teen-pregnancy rate was 132 per 1,000, compared to approximately 29.4 per 1,000 elsewhere in Sonoma County, which includes Santa Rosa, according to the Southwest Health Clinic's proposal.

Cheryl Negrin, a family nurse practitioner at the Elsie Allen school clinic told Cybercast News Service that the change allows the offering of "a full scope of health care."

But the Eagle Forum of California is distributing online petitions calling for the Santa Rosa City Board of Education to repeal the rule and teach abstinence education instead.

Eagle Forum contends in the petition that parents' rights are being violated and that "students as young as 12" will be allowed "to receive contraceptives at Elsie Allen without any parental notification."

Eagle Forum also claims that the Santa Rosa City Board of Education failed to teach abstinence appropriately. "California Ed Code 51553 calls for a true abstinence program to be taught in public schools," the Eagle Forum stated.

While California State Law does allow any minor 12 or older to obtain an abortion, testing for pregnancy and HIV as well as treatment for alcohol and drug abuse, Negrin said the birth control program in the Santa Rosa City school district will not affect students younger than 14. "The youngest we [serve] here is in high school," students 14 years and older, she said.

She also turned aside criticism about the failure to teach abstinence, indicating that the Elsia Allen clinic provides abstinence education "like everything else."

"The big change," Negrin says, "is to be able to distribute when patients come in." The clinic in the past could do nothing more than refer patients to another clinic three miles away, she said.

Though there is reportedly ample public transportation to that outside clinic, the Southwest Health Clinic found that only one in 8 of its referrals to that facility actually showed up to obtain the birth control prescriptions.

The Eagle Forum asserts that the change amounts to promoting sexual activity. "Use of contraceptives brings higher risk of increase in sexual activity [...] and rate of promiscuity increases," the group's petition reads.

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