Column: Scrap the permission slip, give me that pill

By Gus Bode

Some middle schools are pushing the envelope when it comes to how much they provide for their students. Recently, a school in Maine allowed its health center to allow students as young as 11 to receive birth control patches and pills, according to The New York Times.

The Maine school is not a fluke. There are more than 10 middle schools in the nation that allow their students access to birth control. My biggest problem with the Maine situation is that the parents are not allowed to know their child is receiving birth control.

Under Maine law, reproductive health, substance abuse and mental health are confidential matters. Therefore, they cannot be mentioned to parents; the children must tell them.

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As an 11-year-old, would you tell your parents that you were receiving birth control? I highly doubt it.

At the Carbondale Middle School, parental permission has to be granted before students can go on field trips, have their photograph taken, use the Internet or post their photo on the Internet.

Yet, the Maine middle schoolers can get birth control from the health center without permission. True, the parents have to allow the children to even use the health center. But I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to have them give additional permission for distribution of the pill or patch. That is a little bit more important than a Band-Aid for a cut.

The Maine school introduced this service to 11-year-olds as a result of five students, who were 14 and 15, reporting that they were sexually active. So, instead of introducing them to right and wrong and the consequences of sex, they threw a pill at them.

Pills and patches are not fix-it-alls.

The problem was not with the 11-year-olds. Why involve them? Why introduce such young minds to thoughts they have no business thinking? Good grief, an 11-year-old girl has just begun puberty! Shall we confuse her more by telling her she is safe to have sex?

What about the side effects of birth control? The more years you spend on the pill, the greater your chances for cervical and liver cancer. Pills also increase your blood pressure. The longer amount of time you spend on the pill, the greater your risk of high blood pressure.

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Those are only the adult risks. The risks increase when the user is young. Breast cancer is a huge concern. Also, the chemicals in the pills damage DNA in the breast cells of these still developing females. Finally, the pill may cause girls’ bodies to stop ovulating. This means no children later in life because of decisions made early on. The risks are very large, and I am quite sure we will find more as more research is done on these children as they reach adulthood.

As for the patch, the FDA released a report this past January stating it increased the risk of developing serious blood clots.

On top of all of this, neither the patch nor the pill protects the user from STDs.

I can’t believe there is not more of an outcry against this, at least by the parents if not the general community. Giving your school the right to give your 11-year-old daughter the pill without your knowledge is ridiculous. What is the world coming to?

How much lower will we let the age of the user go until we decide to speak up?

Lindsay is a senior studying journalism.

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