Battle of the birth control

Jackie Mantey

Ah, sixth grade. Memories abound: a Leonardo DiCaprio obsession, soccer at recess and a Backstreet Boys concert at which I spent the entire time screaming from nosebleed seats that Nick Carter was pointing at ME! The age of innocence, pop quizzes and lunch box notes from mom.

My how things change.

All the buzz last week was the decision by Portland, Maine, King Middle School’s decision to allow middle schools to provide birth control pills to its students — some as young as 11-years-old — giving the moral majority more fuel to its fire of the new lows of a liberal society.

The city of Portland has had 17 pregnancies reported in its middle schools in four years, according to reports from CNN: “Five of the 134 students who visited King’s health center during the 2006-07 school year reported having sexual intercourse, said Amanda Rowe, lead nurse in Portland’s school health centers.”

Some parents are horrified; some parents are anxious but understand. I agree with the latter.

Sure, it’s sad that we’ve reached a point that 11-year-olds are having sexual intercourse, but that is the reality of living in an increasingly sexualized society. It would be illogical not to provide birth control for those having sex, regardless of age.

The argument of many outraged onlookers is that birth control accessibility leads to promiscuity. I think that pales in comparison to the fact that birth control and emergency contraceptives have helped prevent more than 35,000 unplanned pregnancies and 800,000 abortions a year.

In addition, schools have increasingly had to become parents for their students; just because one parent is a good one and wants the school to butt out of what their child is learning about sex doesn’t mean all students are afforded that luxury. It’s ironic that those who don’t want to give out the birth control are also probably those who think abstinence-only education works. But ignorance is bliss, I guess.

The reality is that this service does need to be offered to middle school girls in addition to a comprehensive sexual education plan. Education will prevent promiscuity. Hiding birth control pills won’t.

The most disturbing thing about this whole ordeal isn’t that a small amount of sixth-graders are having sex, but at the same time, buried on page 12, are news stories that say more than 3 million college students and 750,000 low-income women have lost access to affordable birth control on which they have grown to depend.

After Congress passed the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, every higher education health center and more than 400 community clinics lost their right to buy low-cost birth control for patients. Instead of paying $5-$10 per month, college women are paying $30-$50 per month. Some schools can’t even carry birth control for their students.

Why can sixth-graders in Portland, Maine, get birth control, but I can’t? There’s the problem.

Jackie Mantey is a senior magazine journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].