I’m never sure how news-wise y’all Gentle Readers are. Have you been following the whole business of the Portland (ME) school board, the clinic at the King Middle School, and contraceptives? Short version, the school board is allowing the clinic to prescribe The Pill to middle-school students without specific parental permission. Since middle school is presumably 6th to 9th grades, that means that in theory eleven-year-old girls might get on The Pill without their parents knowing. I wouldn’t blame you, Gentle Reader, for being sick of the whole story, but bear with me.
I was listening to NPR recently, it would have been, yes, it was Talk of the Nation on Monday, and I was getting all infuriated by the discussion of priceless virginity (actually spouted: can your pills mend a broken heart?) and how easy it is to spot those students who lack love and are therefore more likely to be having all that nasty sex. Your Humble Blogger is aware that people really do talk like that, but I am fortunately shielded from most of it. In fact, almost all of that sort of rhetoric I do see is reprinted on various pro-choice blogs for the sole purpose of mocking it, and I tend to discount (as I should, and as should you) the craziness displayed, because the bloggers are cherry-picking the most mockable stuff, so that their blogs won’t be quite so dull as mine. Anyway it’s always a shock to discover in real life that people really are as crazy as my fellow Left Blogovians think they are.
Part of what disturbed me, though, was that I really am ambivalent about making contraceptive pills available to pre-teens. That may just be my squeamishness about pre-teen sexuality, but then, I am squeamish about pre-teen sexuality, and furthermore, I think people should be at least a little squeamish about pre-teen sexuality. Even the ninth-graders, and I think we can assume that there will be at least a few students who will be fifteen by the end of their ninth-grade year, seem very young to be having sex. So if I were told that the middle-school which my Perfect Non-Reader will attend will have a health clinic that may provide prescriptions for contraceptives without my (or my Best Reader’s) specific approval, I would be … I don’t really know, actually. I would be ambivalent, I expect.
What I was eventually able to articulate, through conversation with my Best Reader, was that I can easily imagine a situation where an eleven-year-old girl ought to have a prescription for contraceptives, and that her parents should not be informed, and that in those rare, unfortunate, but conceivable circumstances, I would prefer that the clinicians be allowed to recognize that and act on it.
Digression: This reminds me of my rant about Banned Books Week, which was last week or the week after. I want some books to be banned from the local primary school library, which is the same thing as saying that there are books I don’t want to be in the library. I just want the librarian to make that decision. The librarian knows more than I do about the books and about the students, and more than the other parents do about the books and the students, and we have to either trust the librarian or get a new one we can trust. It’s not about whether any books get banned, or even which books get banned, it’s about who bans them. End Digression.
The problem, as was pointed out by Becks over at Unfogged, is that my ideal world with smart, capable, perceptive, well-paid clinicians spending loads of time getting to know the students closely does not necessarily closely resemble the real world. It might. I’m not sure. It doesn’t always, I know that. I wasn’t personally asked to take a pregnancy test at my college health center, but every single female student in knew who went in for any reason whatsoever was. It’s easy to imagine a smart policy (make contraception available, don’t stock acquisition inappropriate books, discover pregnancies early) degenerating into a dumb policy (put them all on The Pill, ban Harry Potter, make the student with the sprained ankle pee on the stick).
I wouldn’t want contraceptive prescriptions to become routine at the middle school level, particularly the early middle school level. But I wouldn’t want to ban them altogether. If it your town, Gentle Reader, what would you do?
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,