SCHOOL CLINICS: Controversial Bill on Davis’ Desk
A public school health clinic bill is "forcing Gov. Gray Davis to choose between two ideals: protecting the health of teens and upholding the rights of parents," the Contra Costa Times reports. The bill's supporters contend that increasing the number of school health clinics will "offer much-needed -- and sometimes life-saving -- care" to children and adolescents who might not otherwise have access to a physician. Opponents argue that the clinics give more authority to public schools and erode parental autonomy. Jan Carroll, legislative analyst for the California Pro-Life Council, said, "We fundamentally take a very strong position against having comprehensive health care services in the schools, because there's no way for parents to get a handle on what's going on." Some opponents, if given the chance, say they would "close the existing clinics and repeal the current provisions of state law regarding teenagers' confidential rights." There are currently no state guidelines for public school health clinics and no statistics on exactly how many are in operation. But, Georgiana Coray, who heads an association representing school health clinics, estimates that there are about 70 throughout the state. Davis has until Oct. 10 to render a decision on the bill.
Sending the Wrong Message on Sex?
The Contra Costa County Health Department has been running a clinic at the Richmond High School for the past six years, offering services from immunizations and physicals to testing for sexually transmitted diseases. While the clinic does supply condoms, it refers students to other health clinics or to Planned Parenthood for other types of birth control. Teresa Antelo, the clinic manager, said that students often ask about confidentiality, expressing concerns that their parents will find out about their visit to the clinic. Supporters believe that if kids felt their visits were not kept confidential, they would not use the clinics, leading to far worse problems, such as AIDS and pregnancy. But critics argue the opposite, contending that providing contraceptives and STD testing without parental knowledge increases the likelihood that teens will have sex. Carroll said, "Frankly, they can get contraceptives at the drugstore. They don't need to get it in school, and I think getting it in school sends a double message" (Rarick, 9/29).