April 5, 2012 — "[S]chool-based clinics are giving our most vulnerable students a chance to escape the cycle of poverty by keeping them child-free, while at the same time benefitting society as a whole," writes Patrick Welsh, an English teacher at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., in a USA Today opinion piece.
Welsh outlines how a 2010 decision by the Alexandria school system to move an adolescent health center next to the high school's guidance office doubled its use. "Of all the benefits of the move, the most striking to me and other veteran teachers here on the front lines is that we have not been seeing as many girls making their way down the hallways seven or eight months pregnant," Welsh writes. According to the school's social worker, the school has experienced lower pregnancy rates, which can be attributed to "convenient access to the clinic, plus the ease of getting contraceptives, including Plan B," Welsh writes.
Welsh acknowledges "the many difficult moral questions regarding young teenage girls and the distribution of contraception" -- brought to light recently with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' decision not to remove age restrictions for the emergency contraceptive Plan B One-Step "and the debate that ensued." However, Welsh writes that he favors "giving contraceptives to all who ask" because of data that show teens who have children before age 18 are less likely to graduate from high school and college.
Welsh concludes, "For the most vulnerable girls, who might still be struggling to see themselves as successful, schools like mine are ultimately choosing the greater good by doing everything possible to prevent a pregnancy that could severely limit their futures" (Welsh, USA Today, 4/3).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership