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.”