Teen Health Funding in Alexandria, Virginia
Last Sunday, we received fliers about the funding of a new teen health center at Alexandria's T.C. Williams High School (Remember the Titans!). It is currently located in a trailer at a nearby shopping center and the funds are to create a new center at the school itself. The center provides a full range of services to youth from ages 12 to 19. What sticks in the craw of whoever did the flier is the fact that the center provides birth control and abortion referrals (not services) without parental permission. Here is a link to a description of the renovations: http://www.acps.k12.va.us/news2010/nr2010022602.php
The parish asked that people go to the School Board's budget meeting to raise objections, which occurred last the second of March. The final budget session is the fourth. Since we are a fairly liberal parish, I doubt there were many takers - at least I hope not. I will check back to see when the minutes of the meeting are posted.
I'm not even going to touch the legality and morality of abortion, since readers of this space already know where I stand. They also know that the Church's stance on birth control is based on an inadequate knowledge of embryology - which pretty clearly shows that individuality cannot occur prior to gastrulation. The issue here is access for youth.
Statistics show that despite the Church's teaching on these issue, both abortion and contraception use are as common among Catholics as the rest of the population. Sending your child to Catholic School does not mean she is less likely to get an abortion. It probably makes it more likely that you will pay for it and have it done clandestinely, especially given the emphasis in elite Catholic Schools on college prep. As for birth control, most gynecologists see young women alone. Parents are not allowed in and they have an expectation of privacy in this area. If your little girl gets birth control from her doctor, you will be the last to know. Also, moving the health center to T.C. Williams decreases the likelihood that girls from the local Catholic High School, Bishop Ireton, have access to the clinic. Some Ireton parents probably like that fact.
The question, then, is whether non-Catholic kids or Catholic kids who cannot afford elite Catholic schools have the same access to not only contraception, but also to basic health care. When every young lady can get the same health care access as her private school counterparts, opposing convenient access at T.C. Williams looks bad.
There is also the question of sexual autonomy. Once a young person is having sex, that person is potentially a parent themselves. Once a person can be a parent and put themselves at risk for that condition by having sex, their parents should basically lose their veto over reproductive health decisions (with the exception of children who are being abused by someone much older, in which case the child needs rescue, especially if the abuser is a relative).
Attacking teen pregnancy or even teen sexuality by giving people moral directives has not been working too well for the Church and probably never has. I suggest a different tactic: economically empowering sexually active young people. For most of human evolution, once you were physically grown, you were considered adult. If industrialization and the advancement of science has rendered this difficult the solution is not to try to change human biology but to instead change the economics to match what young people do anyway.
T.C. Williams High School actually does a better job of this than the elite Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria. T.C. Williams provides on site daycare to students who are also parents. Ireton does not. If the Catholic Church wants to really show that it is pro-life, actions matter more than words. It can start by opening a day care for student-parents so that they need not transfer (or get abortions). It can also pay the tuition of pregnant students and student parents (fathers too) at both the High School and College level and help them with living expenses. Until it does these things, it should not be in the business of limiting the access of young people to health care.