A state program called Healthy Montana Kids provides free or low-cost health care to kids and teenagers, but it doesn’t pay for prescription birth control if it’s used for preventing pregnancy. Planned Parenthood thinks this policy is a reason Montana is one of two states with a teen pregnancy rate that is rising.Wendy Doely, Executive Director of Flathead Family Planning agrees.“I would like to see kids be abstinent until they are ready to take full responsibility for the consequences of their actions,” says Doely. “But regardless of what we as adults or what parents may feel, kids make their own choices.”
Based on review of all available scientific evidence, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that emergency contraception is safe enough for over-the-counter access to any woman or girl of childbearing age—a ruling the Obama Administration overturned, resulting in a huge outcry by the public health community. But the administration may want to rethink its decision, now that the results of a New York City pilot program are in.
The program, which is called CATCH or Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Healthcare, has been in effect since January. Through CATCH, campus-based student centers provide birth control pills and emergency contraception. Although data on teen pregnancy rates have not yet been compiled, the teens and their parents have been enthusiastic participants.
Only 1 percent to 2 percent of parents returned a form to opt out of the program. The form allowed them to select any or all of four types of reproductive services that they did not want their child to receive, including emergency contraception, birth control pills, pregnancy testing or condoms.
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In the 2011-12 school year, 567 students received emergency contraception, known as Plan B, and 580 received the birth-control pill Reclipsen through the city program. But health officials said those numbers did not reflect the many students who were referred out for services.
The private programs also offer morning-after pills and do not require parental consent, city officials said. If a parent opted out of the city-run contraception program, his or her child could still go to any community clinic or a school-based health center operated by a private organization and receive the contraception.
Health officials said it was too early to tell if the program was effective in reducing pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.
Other programs across the country have shown that increased access to birth control through school health facilities and more focus on teen pregnancy prevention has been key in reducing both unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, and even talk to students about all options, including abstinence.
“This is about preventing sexually transmitted diseases and teaching about healthy relationships and abstinence and postponing sex, and preventing some high-risk behaviors,” said Ruth Goldbaum, nurse practitioner at the school-based health clinics in Hartford’s three public high schools, which have been providing contraceptives to students for 15 years. “This allows us to bring the kids in and ask them, ‘Is this really what you want to be doing?'”
The program at Windham High began eight years ago, said Shawn Grunwald, coordinator for the school-based health center there.
“The key for us was that not only were we seeing high rates of teen pregnancies, we were also seeing high rates of STDs,” Grunwald said. “Students knew they could get contraceptives, but they could never get to the places that dispense them, and didn’t know how to use them. This provides us an opportunity to provide them with some education.”
In the United States, nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended and teen pregnancy rates remain unacceptably high. It’s clear that New York schools are doing the right thing to provide students with proven means of making responsible choices about their future. After all, isn’t that what education is supposed to be about?
Roundup: Roeder Bible Study Group Questioned, Tiller Clinic Still For Sale
Was the murder of Dr. George Tiller part of a bigger plot, and were more people involved than just Scott Roeder? These are questions that may be answered as a federal grand jury is being opened on the case.
The official says several federal civil rights prosecutors from Washington are holding grand jury proceedings in Kansas City and looking into whether a broader case surrounds Tiller’s shooting.
According to KansasCity.com, acquaintances of Roeder have already been brought in for questioning, with special focus being paid to Roeder’s Bible study group.
Tim Parks, a friend and former roommate of Roeder, said he appeared last week before a grand jury in Kansas City.
“Based on the questions they asked, they are looking into whether others were involved,” Parks said. “It appeared to me that they are trying to find or fabricate a conspiracy.”
The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment Friday, and an FBI spokeswoman declined to comment.
Parks said he and six others appeared before the grand jury last week. All of them, he said, had been part of a Bible study group that Roeder attended, and several were former roommates of Roeder.
One other study group member confirmed he appeared, and the others could not be reached Friday.
The grand jury hearing apparently focused not on Roeder’s friends in the anti-abortion movement, but on the Bible study group.
The group met in one another’s homes on Saturdays for potluck dinners and Scripture study sessions. Those attending the study group described themselves as Messianic Jews who, unlike mainstream Jews, believe that Jesus was the Messiah.
Parks and another member Friday told The Kansas City Star that they were recently visited by FBI and Justice Department investigators, then received subpoenas for the grand jury.
Parks said the federal investigators asked him numerous questions about Roeder’s associates.
“They said something like, ‘Scott doesn’t seem like a lone gunman. He’s not a doer, he’s a follower.’ ”
Parks said he believed Roeder acted alone.
Another of Roeder’s former roommates, who lived with him at the time of Tiller’s murder, said he also appeared before the grand jury.
“They’re trying to see if there is any conspiracy and they’re interviewing everyone who had been to the Bible study,” said the man, who did not want his name revealed.
Meanwhile, Dr. Tiller’s clinic is still on the market, and anti-choice advocates are discussing purchasing it, although others state it will never happen. From the Topeka Capital Journal:
A “for sale” sign posted outside a medical clinic formerly operated by murdered abortion provider George Tiller prompted some abortion opponents Thursday to discuss trying to buy the facility.
David Gittrich, a leader with Kansans for Life, sent fellow members of the anti-abortion group an e-mail informing them of the sign. He suggested turning the site into a memorial for “the babies who lost their lives.”
Peter Brownlie, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said he knew Tiller’s family eventually would try to sell the property. He wasn’t surprised that anti-abortion groups would talk about trying to buy the clinic, though he doubted they would be successful.
County tax records available online list the clinic’s appraised value as $734,100.
“From our perspective, we lost the clinic, officially, a year ago,” Brownlie said. “In some ways, it’s the final chapter in a pretty awful situation.”