I’m still irked about the middle school in Portland, Maine that had the bright idea to bypass parents and give birth control pills to little girls. My irritation goes beyond the fact that the school district is using a very small number of pregnancies and bad situations to usurp parents’ control over and relationship with their children; and it goes beyond the fact that the school district is encouraging sexual activity in younger and younger children because of its decision to enact an overarching policy that actually responds only to the needs of a few. That is, as to this last point, while the policy may be a response to a small number of pregnancies, children now understand that it’s okay to have sex in the school district because there’s a policy in place. Bad, bad, bad. So, those factors are irritants.
But what really, really bugs me about this new decision is the nature of the pill itself. This is not like handing out condoms, which are a barrier method and don’t mess with biology. This is about giving significant hormone doses to children who are still working their way through puberty — and doing it without the parents having any say in the matter. (And I am so willing to bet that the approving parents are the same parents who buy organic so their children don’t have to get hormones in their milk, a problem that is nothing more than an urban legend.)
By the way, if you think you’ve heard this rant from me before, you have, but I’m at it again because of yet another study showing that the pill is not just an innocuous substance that coincidentally stops pregnancy. Instead, it is a powerful actor on a woman’s (or girl’s) body, that can have dangerous side effects outside of preventing conception. Here’s today’s news about the pill:
Women who use oral contraceptives are at increased risk for developing hardened arteries, a condition that can lead to heart attack or stroke, according to a study released Wednesday.
Belgian researchers found that women who had used this hormone-based form of birth control were more likely to have plaques, or a buildup of fatty tissue, on their arteries than women who did not.
Atherosclerosis, the medical term which refers to a build-up of plaque inside the blood vessels, typically occurs with age.
Complications include heart attack or stroke, which occur when unstable pieces of plaque break off and block a blood vessel leading to the heart or brain.
The findings do not mean women should abandon this form of birth control, the authors cautioned.
“The implications are not that women should stop taking the Pill. They should look at reducing other risk factors for cardiovascular disease,” said Ernst Rietzschel, a cardiologist at the University of Ghent in Belgium.
The last bit, about women being informed consumers is all well and good, but your average 12 year old is not an informed consumer, and the Portland, Maine policy removes from the information loop the one set of people who almost certainly care about her more than any other people in the school: her parents.
By the way one of the other serious risks of being on the pill is cancer. Again, your average 11 year old isn’t going to think that one through. And about just the problems of being on the pill. Most women complain about unpleasant weight gain, but a few unlucky ones get genuinely ill, with chronic nausea and vomiting. That’s not good for a growing child either.