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?