It’s 2016 and People Are Still Worried About Teens Taking Birth Control

What’s so terrifying about birth control, again? Photo of a bronze cast of an IUD (Creative Commons).

“I always wonder why parents oppose easy access to birth control,” says Abi Iliesi, a senior at Century High School in Hillsboro, Oregon. “Would they rather have their child hop on a bus alone and go to a clinic downtown?”

This week, the suburban school district that Iliesi attends shot down a plan that would have allowed campus health centers to prescribe birth control to high schoolers. The vote on the school board split along gender and party lines: the four men on the school board (all Republicans) voted against the plan, while the three women on the board (all Democrats) voted for it. Ah, yes, the age-old tale of men controlling the reproductive rights of young women. But the dust up in this one school district reflects two realities seen across the country during this election year: Even as the Affordable Care Act has made birth control more accessible to millions of Americans, teen birth control use remains a politically charged issue. And as Americans’ eyes are focused on the presidential election, it’s a reminder that the people who sit on humble local seats—running in downticket races that rarely get much attention—shape policy in major ways.

An array of birth control options—some reliable, some not—as photographed by teen-friendly sexual health resource site Bedsider.org.

“I think people have unfounded fears that if you give kids more birth control, they’re going to have more sex. That’s just not true,” says Lacey Beaty, the manager of the six school-based health centers in the Hillsboro school district that are operated by the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center. The campus clinics are an innovative approach to healthcare: Unlike the traditional nurses’s office—which can hand out Band-aids and call parents—the student health centers do everything a primary care provider would do, including write prescriptions. But when Beaty started her job two years ago, she was surprised to discover that they didn’t prescribe birth control. The staff told her that the school board was against the idea, but some digging revealed that the board had never actually voted on the idea. Instead, there was just a “gentleman’s agreement” that the campus health centers wouldn’t distribute birth control. “I don’t think there should be a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ about women’s health,” says Beaty.

Over the course of this spring, the school board listened to hours of testimony from people for and against the plan to let school-based health centers distribute birth control. A group of parents sent around a petition against the idea, saying prescribing birth control from the campus health center “usurps parents’ rights and will result in the endangerment of the students’ health and safety.”

Chart from the Guttmacher Institute.

The squeamishness over teens using birth control ignores reality: According to the Guttmacher Institute, 3.2 million teens are using contraceptives (and 53 percent of those teeangers are on the pill). Teenagers are the group most at-risk for not using contraception, in a large part because they often lack both access to affordable birth control and to education about how contraception works. Think about how it would change the lives of millions of Americans if all high schools had clinics where students were able to talk about birth control options with a doctor and get a prescription for the Pill, the patch, or an IUD.

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Beaty notes with irony that the campus health center is right next to a daycare center for students who have babies. While health professions can’t give students birth control because of parents’ fears that they’re sexually active, the babies are living, breathing proof that students are having sex anyway. Beaty says she has about six students a week who come in to talk about contraception at the health center of a typical high school campus. 

Ask the teens who are affected by school birth-control rules and it’s clear how improving access to contraception won’t “endanger” students health.  “I think it’s no secret that high school students are having sex, and it’s a huge reality that not all high schoolers have access to contraceptives,” says Natalie Fossoy, a junior at Century High School. “If they’re doing it, you’re not encouraging them by handing out contraceptives, you’re protecting people.”

Senior Abi Iliesi says she took three friends last year to get birth control at the clinic in downtown Hillsboro. “All three lied to their parents about where they were because they were scared of being beaten, shunned, or kicked out for their decision to get the pill. Two of those friends were already sexually active and not on any form of birth control,” says Iliesi. “I understand that parents want to be part of their children’s decisions, especially when it comes to sexual health, but not everyone has parents they can talk to.”

For now, students like Iliesi’s friends are stuck with the status quo. Beaty says it would be pointless to try and get the current school board to vote again on the measure, so advocates of reproductive health will have to wait until at least next May to try again—that’s when the school board members are up for reelection. “I feel like a broken record, but the things that make you the most angry in your life are local politics. It’s so important to have women on that table,” says Beaty. “When I retire, I want to go back and be a school board member.”

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Hillsboro school board votes 4-3 to reject contraceptives in high school

By Allan Brettman | The Oregonian/OregonLive

virginiagarcia.png

Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center provides healthcare services to more than 42,000 patients a year in Washington and Yamhill counties at five primary care clinics and pharmacies, five dental offices, and six school-based health centers. The nonprofit also provide outreach to schools, community health fairs and to migrant and seasonal farmworkers at local camps and commercial nurseries through its mobile clinic. (Virginia Garcia)

The Hillsboro School District Board voted 4-3 Tuesday night to reject a proposal to offer contraceptives to students at a medical clinic within Century High School.

The vote was along gender lines: Wayne Clift, chair; Glenn Miller, vice chair; Monte Akers; and Erik Seligman voted against the proposal. Kim Strelchun, Janeen Sollman, and Lisa Allen voted in favor.

Before taking the vote, board members discussed possible compromises, district spokeswoman Beth Graser said. After a lengthy discussion, the board voted shortly before midnight on the original proposal.

Representatives for the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center, which runs the clinic at Century as well as at four other high schools in Washington County and one in Yamhill County, suggested making only oral contraceptives available to students, said Lacey Beaty, school-based health center manager for Virginia Garcia.

Clift and other board members, however, asked clinic officials to guarantee that parents of students would be notified if their child sought contraceptives, Beaty said.

She said the clinic would only ensure “we would make our best effort” to notify parents, saying state and federal law on medical confidentiality applies to patients beginning at age 15, which also is the age the clinic begins offering family planning services.

“‘Best effort’ is talking to students and encouraging them to involve their parents, telling them that having the support of parents enhances patient outcomes,” said Beaty, who also is a Beaverton City Council member. “If they tell us, ‘we don’t want our parents to know,’ we have to respect that.”

Clinicians already hear student patients request that parents not be informed of their request for help on other medical issues, most often related to mental health, she said.

Clift, the board chair, could not be reached Wednesday.

Allen, one of the three board members voting in favor of offering contraceptives, sent an emailed statement to The Oregonian/OregonLive:

“As I stated last night at the Board meeting, I was very disappointed with the decision reached.  I firmly support broad access to contraceptives at School Based Health Centers.  Within the boundaries of HSD, there are 156 pregnancies each year, for high school aged young women, and approximately 135 of these pregnancies result in abortion.  77% of those young women were not accessing contraceptives.  The evidence clearly shows that allowing access to family planning services drastically decreases these numbers.”

Under the clinic-proposed compromise, contraceptives such as Depo-Provera shots, intrauterine devices and arm implants would be prohibited. In earlier meetings with clinic officials to discuss contraceptives at Century High School, board members indicated that condoms would not be part of the discussion.

“They said students could already buy them at retail without a prescription,” Beaty said.

Offering contraceptives at the school would be better than directing students to their primary care provider or Planned Parenthood because “we have the time, availability and the location,” Beaty said. “Our staff are experts in adolescent health care. It gives students a realm of comfort. It’s close and they feel safe.”

The clinic at Century is already regarded as a sanctuary of sorts, and not just for medical issues, Beaty said.

“We’re an LGBTQ safe zone. Kids who are transgender or have transgender feelings can come in here,” she said. “We treat people how they should be treated. Geographically it’s in a place that is known to them. They’re talking about a sensitive topic – it’s the reason we often don’t see kids going to Planned Parenthood.”

As for the 4-3 board vote split along male-female lines, Beaty said, “It shows women understand the value of family planning. Women are in a unique position to understand women’s needs.”

Before taking its vote, the board heard from people opposing and favoring the contraception plan. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, whose district includes Hillsboro, submitted a letter saying in part:

“Access to contraceptives and medically accurate information about contraceptives reduces the teen pregnancy rate, a goal I expect we all support. A policy that removes barriers to students seeking contraceptives will promote the educational achievement of all students, but particularly young women, and help make sure that they have the opportunity to complete their high school education.”

–Allan Brettman

OPCA AWARDS OF EXCELLENCE 2017-18

Each year OPCA takes pride in honoring the individuals and organizations of the community health center community who do outstanding work to provide quality health and health care services for people experiencing poverty and marginalization in Oregon. 

This year, OPCA received more nominations than in any previous year, making it a very competitive process to select the winners. Winners were selected by the OPCA Board’s Bylaws & Nominating Committee.

Congratulations to the following individuals who took home a 2017-18 OPCA Award of Excellence, which were presented at OPCA’s Annual Meeting on April 27, 2018, in Portland.

OPCA Award Winner 2018 Advocacy LaceyBeaty website

Advocacy Award

Lacey Beaty, Virginia Garcia
Lacey Beaty, program director of the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center School-Based Health Center, was nominated for her work getting policy changed to allow four school-based health centers to provide access to reproductive and birth control services, had previously been restricted by three school districts. She worked with school board members, school district administrators, community members, patient families, students, and Virginia Garcia executives to successfully change this policy.

Forest Grove school board discusses contraceptives ahead of vote

by Chris Liedle, KATU NewsMonday, April 9th 2018AA Birth control pills. (Photo: outcast104 / Flickr / CC BY 2.0)<p>{/p}

FOREST GROVE, Ore. — The Forest Grove school board is considering to permit its school-based health center to provide contraceptives to students. A decision is expected soon.

The school board has discussed, what some would call controversial, the idea for years, but has yet to make a definitive ruling.

Nonprofit Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center operates the school-based health center (SBHC) for the district.ADVERTISING

The health center provides health care for people from birth to 20 years old at little to no cost.

Virginia Garcia Memorial operates health centers in several rural towns and six districts in Washington and Yamhill counties, including Beaverton, Tigard-Tualatin, Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Century and Willamina school districts.

Five out of the six schools provide contraception services. Forest Grove is the last school district remaining.

Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center school-based health center Program Director Lacey Beaty points to the district’s teen pregnancy rates as proof contraception services are needed.

According to the nonprofit, Forest Grove has the highest rate of teen pregnancies in the entire state. For girls and women aged 15 to 19, 39 of every 1,000 in Forest Grove become pregnant, compared to the state’s 21 of every 1,000 in the same age range.

“There is a lot of children getting pregnant because they have lack of options and places to go,” Beaty told KATU. “We are adolescent specialists. We know how to communicate with students and we want parents involved and we want teens to want their parents to be involved. We help bridge the gap between students’ rights and parental consent. We want to bring those two together at the school-based health center.”

2017 study conducted by the Oregon Health Authority found more than half of students polled said they first had sex at 15 and 16 years old.

Contraceptives are offered at the Beaverton Public Schools health center across from Beaverton High School. It’s been offered for more than two years there.

Beaty says 23 percent of students who use health center services ask for contraceptives. She also says the nonprofit has found a decrease in sexually transmitted infections (STI).

“The sky did not fall here,” Beaty said. “We had no adverse reactions from parents. We were able to do what every other pediatrician office can do, according to the state law.”

Under Oregon law, children as young as 15 can seek medical care without parental permission and students of any age are able to seek contraceptive services without parental approval.

But not everyone is on board.

Suzanne Gallagher, executive director of Parents’ Rights in Education, says it breaches parents’ rights.

“For decades, there has been a tug-of-war between the public school bureaucracy and parents over what students are taught. Now, there is an effort to step beyond that realm into health, a very dangerous leap,” Gallagher said. “Just because the family is not of means, does not suggest the parents don’t want to be involved in health-related decisions.”

Several parents who asked to remain anonymous agreed, even taking it one step further, and arguing schools should be encouraging students to practice abstinence.

Since Jan. 1, Hillsboro and Tigard-Tualatin school boards voted to allow school-based health centers to provide contraceptives to students.

Gallagher read a prepared statement urging Tigard-Tualatin board members to reconsider. Read her whole statement below.

Incoming Beaverton City Councilor Lacey Beaty wants a defined downtown, warming shelter

Updated Jan 10, 2019; Posted Dec 31, 2014Comment0sharesBy Nuran Alteir | The Oregonian/OregonLive

Lacey Beaty

Lacey Beaty will be sworn in as city councilor in the Beaverton City Council Chamber, 12725 S.W. Millikan Way, on Tuesday, Jan. 6, at 6:30 p.m.

(Nuran Alteir/The Oregonian )

Beaverton City Council will have a new face next week, when community activist and U.S. Army veteran Lacey Beaty is sworn in Tuesday, Jan. 6.

Beaty, 30, who has lived in Beaverton since 2008, served as vice chair on the city’s Visioning Advisory Committee, vice chair on HomePlate Youth Services Board of Directors, and on the Leadership Beaverton Board of Directors. She never had any intention running for city council.

“This was not the path that I thought I would be on,” Beaty said. “But when you see something, and you know something needs to be changed, you have the responsibility to do it.”

Running against incumbent Ian King in the May primary, Beaty claimed 55 percent of votes.

“I just had a huge community behind me, and that makes a difference… there’s power behind that,” Beaty said.

Her win was bittersweet with her husband being deployed to Afghanistan the next day. But, she’s looking at the bigger picture and has some plans to move Beaverton forward:

Q. What made you want to run for city council?

A. Unfortunately, when you start serving a lot, you also see what’s wrong and you see what areas you want to fix. That’s kind of why I decided to run. When our city is so young and the average person is 34, yet, none of the elected officials look like that — that’s a huge piece we’re missing. I don’t think my opinion is so much better than the other councilors, but I just think it’s a different perspective. Together we all bring such different things that the community benefits. I wanted to make sure we had somebody younger and somebody that really cares about the community.

Lacey Beaty, U.S. Army Veteran, spoke about her concerns with getting prompt services from Veteran’s Affairs at a forum hosted by U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici in July 2014.

Q. As you said, you’ve seen some of the problems in the city. What is something you want to tackle first?

A. Downtown core. If you ask people where downtown Beaverton is, who knows. Where is downtown Beaverton. When I was in graduate school I studied generational differences. We know that millennials move to a city and jobs are not even a top priority. So, if we know that people are moving to cities because they want to be there, shouldn’t we spend more time making our cities where people want to live? We need a destination. Somebody has to be a driving force behind it. I don’t think it’s me. My job [on city council] would be removing barriers.

Q. Do you think city council currently enforces too many barriers or hasn’t encouraged new ideas?

A. Our city runs really great, so it’s easy to know that we’re already doing well and not want to push boundaries to do better. Hearing what other cities are doing is transformational. There are cities literally eradicating homelessness and we don’t even have a warming shelter. We need some strong leaders who are willing to say, ‘We’re going to have a warming shelter; we are going to do something.’

Q. Is there another goal you want to focus on for Beaverton as city councilor?

A. I’d really like to look at how [the city] supports nonprofits. [I want to] equalize our process on who gets community space at a discount and really make it so that we’re equipping people to eventually move out on their own — like nonprofit training wheels. We own a lot of property, and we have an ability to do a lot of good. I just want to make sure that it’s fair and equitable. We just have people that have been in long-term leases with the city, and I’m not saying they don’t deserve to be there. I just want to feel comfortable when community members ask me, ‘Why do this group get free space,’ that I have a really definitive reason why. I don’t think it’s the business of government to tax people and funnel money to nonprofits. That’s not what we do. It’s just a fringe benefit. I want, to a certainty, to know that we put people through a process.

I think the biggest thing I’d like to accomplish as a city councilor is reinstating a warming shelter. It’s insane to me that last night, when it dropped below freezing, there was nowhere for people to go. Washington County has a 10-year plan to eradicate homelessness. I don’t know if Beaverton has the capacity to do that, but we do have the capacity to house people on freezing nights. I don’t know what that place looks like. There are a couple places that I think would be ideal like the building across from the library. It’s a huge miss that our city doesn’t have it.

Q. How do you feel?

A. With the holidays it’s hard with my husband [deployed to Afghanistan]. He was my number one supporter, my best friend. We’ve been married 10 years. It’s been really difficult and it’s really hard for me to not have him here when I’m sworn in on Tuesday because he was such a big part of it. Other than that, I’m just excited to serve. It’s been eight months since I won. I’ve been doing tons of meet-and-greets. I went to the firing range with the police department. I rode around with public works. I toured every building we own. I’ve talked to people at every level. I’m ready to go. It’s like the summer before your freshman year of college; this whole exciting thing is in front of you. It’s almost there. You know what’s coming, but you don’t know until you’re there.

Beaty will be sworn in as city councilor in the Beaverton City Council Chamber, 12725 S.W. Millikan Way, on Tuesday, Jan. 6, at 6:30 p.m.

—Nuran Alteir | Twitter