Two days after the school committee voted 7 to 2 in favor of adding prescription contraceptives to the services offered at the health clinic, the issue continues to draw fervent support and ardent opposition in this city of 64,000, the largest in Maine.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Cathleen Allen, whose son is enrolled at King. “Someone is finally advocating for these students to take care of themselves.”
Ms. Allen added, “It’s an eye-opener for all of us, but when you look at the facts, why not?”
Bishop Richard J. Malone of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland is calling on the school committee to rescind its decision, as have the state and city Republican Parties. The city party is also pushing a recall for members who voted in favor.
Nick McGee, the city’s Republican Party chairman, said of the policy, “It is an attack on the moral fabric of our community, and a black eye for our state.”
On Friday, John Coyne, chairman of the school committee and one of the two members who voted against the plan, said he wanted the panel to reconsider the program. Mr. Coyne said that parents should have the option to enroll their children in all aspects of the clinic except reproductive health treatment, and that parents should be made more aware of the state’s confidentiality laws.
“I still don’t feel comfortable with this,” Mr. Coyne said. “There’s no talk about the health issues and the possible long-term ill effects on these young ladies.”
The school’s clinic functions much like a physician’s office and has been offering condoms and testing for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases since 2000. It also offers dental, mental health and basic care.
The clinics at Portland high schools have offered oral contraceptives for years, said Douglas S. Gardner, the city’s director of health and human services. Health officials decided to extend the policy to middle school after learning that 17 middle school students had become pregnant in the last four years, seven of them in the 2006-7 school year.