A public school in Seattle, Washington is offering its female students as young as 11 years old the opportunity have an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD) implanted and paid for through taxpayer funding without seeking parental consent first.
The new health policy was first implemented at Chief Sealth High School in Seattle in 2010. The policy runs state-wide, allowing female students in middle and high schools to be given birth control beginning in the sixth grade, without requiring that the school provide knowledge of the situation to their guardians.
State law allows a minor attending middle or high school to obtain birth control without parental consent, writes Emma Bussey for The Daily Mail.
So far, 13 public schools in the area have implemented the new policy in an effort to have their female students become more responsible when it comes to contraceptive methods.
The schools are also offering their female students the chance to have an IUD, or other long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) implanted for free. IUDs offer long-lasting birth control through a device that is surgically implanted into the uterus. If the school is unable to provide the service, they will pay for the student to have it done at an outside clinic.
While IUDs are believed to be 98% effective at preventing pregnancy, they do not protect against any form of sexually-transmitted disease.
The Washington State Medicaid website announced that there are currently four middle school and nine high schools across Seattle taking part in the initiative, known as "Take Charge."
According to a spokesperson for the Washington State Health Care Authority Take Charge program, underage students are eligible for a "full array of covered family planning services' at school-based clinics if their parents meet the program's requirements." The program is geared toward girls and women who do not have health insurance.
The spokesperson went on to say that "a student who does not want their parents to know they are seeking reproductive health services is allowed to apply for Take Charge using their own income, and if they are insured under their parents' plan, the insurance would not be billed."
Parents in the state are not only concerned about their children obtaining birth control without their consent, but also about the health risks associated with IUDs and LARCs. Medical experts maintain that implanting an IUD could possibly result in a perforation of the uterus, which could cause a number of serious complications including internal bleeding. Meanwhile, LARCs are also associated with a number of serious side effects including pelvic infections, ovarian cysts and bleeding.
Despite the health concerns, Seattle school health educator Katie Acker maintains that the new policy will have a positive impact on female students. She said that teens in the state will now be able to have access to trained health professionals at any time during the school day because they will be located within the school, which could result in the students becoming more proactive toward contraception use.