Aren’t there enough hormones in middle school already?

The NYT reported yesterday that Portland, ME is making prescription birth control available to middle school students. The debate has been going along the usual predictable political lines. (Here’s an example from Pandagon.) Now, I think that right-wing claims that birth control causes sex are ridiculous, but I still have reservations about schools passing out prescription medication.

Hormonal birth control is a serious drug – it can have unpleasant side effects and interact with other medication. Every single one of my female friends has a nasty-side-effect story, from weight gain to crippling nausea. In my case, the pill interferes with my thyroid-replacement hormone (I’ve got hypothyroidism), so that both have to be carefully monitored and adjusted. Will these schools have the resources to deal with potential complications? Will middle-schoolers have the maturity to keep all their doctors informed of their current medications and medical conditions?

In an ideal world, every 12 year old would have a primary-care physician that could coordinate all their care, wouldn’t judge, and would keep their privacy. This isn’t that happy land, but is Portland’s solution really the way to go about it? Instead of passing out synthetic hormones, how about having a bowl of condoms in every bathroom stall? And really explicit & accurate sex education?

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8 Responses to Aren’t there enough hormones in middle school already?

  1. anna says:

    i know what you mean – hormones are really scary stuff. it does seem like condom availability (and good sex ed! imagine!) might be a simpler and safer overall solution. eesh.

  2. Sam says:

    Yes. And while I don’t think birth control causes sex, I do think the pill provides a false sense of security. You have to actually take it every day, at the same time — my middle schoolers can’t manage to remember to bring a pencil to class!

    I also think that there’s an sense of tacit condoning conveyed by the pill that isn’t by condoms. “Keep a condom in your purse” feels like an emergency measure; “let me give you a prescription for the pill” is planning ahead. It really might, in fact, encourage some kids to feel like they “should” be having sex, because The Establishment clearly assumes that all their friends are already OMG!

    And seriously? There is no circumstance under which 12-year-olds should be having sex. I teach them all day, and they are still children. Some high school students are ready, some aren’t, and I’m a-ok with their doctors prescribing them birth control after appropriate sex ed and discussion. But middle schoolers? Absolutely fucking not.

  3. Koji Oe says:

    Sex should be saved for after marriage. This is ridiculous.

  4. lisamm says:

    Middle school is 6th-8th grade. My daughter will start 6th grade next Sept. at age 10 (Nov. birthday). So 10-11 year olds would have access to birth control pills and the patch WITHOUT THEIR PARENTS CONSENT OR KNOWLEDGE. How many 10-11 year olds are having sex, really? In high school there’s afeeling of ‘everybody’s doing it’, but middle school? I don’t think birth control causes sex, but there is certainly an implied consent from the school if it’s freely given out.. (oh, and kiddies, you don’t have to tell your parents!!) I would be so pissed if I lived in that district! I’m a girl scout leader, and we can’t even apply SUNSCREEN on the girls or give them an aspirin, let alone hand out birth control pills. I would think the school would worry about liability if a girl got sick or hurt from the hormones. I don’t like the “condoms in a bowl in the bathroom” idea either. Save it for high school.

  5. J says:

    it’s just one school or one district, as I recall. They’ve already made condoms available for years, have good sex ed, and parents would have had to consent at some point to the school giving their kid medicine (though not explicitly the pill).

    I’m wondering what level of sexual activity they’re already aware of that they feel the need to escalate to the pill. From listening to a parent at the school who is also (on the school board?) a decision-maker in this thing on the pill side, it seems like there’s enough sex happening that they’d rather keep the girls unpregnant than hope they’re using condoms.

    Still feel woogy about it, just thought I’d respond to some of the OMG!s above.

  6. Eric Wolff says:

    [this is Miriam on Eric's computer.]
    J is correct – though, like him, I still feel woogy. Here’s some more background. It appears that this step was sparked by 17 middle school pregnancies in 4 years (not counted miscarriages and terminations.) Apparently Baltimore middle schoolers have had access to contraception for over ten years, and it has cut the birth rate substantially. Is it because middle school girls who have sex have older boyfriends who won’t wear condoms? So they’re not pregnant, but they are unprotected from STDs. It’s something, I guess. Though very very far from good.

  7. Sam says:

    I want to know a lot more about the sex ed in this district, and in the Baltimore schools you mention, Eric. That seems like a glaring omission in the article.

  8. Courtney says:

    I understand parents concern about there children having connections with birth control and condoms in schools, but most parents don’t understand that some parents are NOT being parents at ALL and those children shouldn’t have to suffer because of lack of sex knowledge. It hasn’t been very long sense i’ve been in middle school and high school, and i know for a fact that kids are going to take risks sexually no matter what. Kids will be kids no matter what morals you teach them. Let them make the choice to be educated. Let them be safe!!!

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