'Middle School Kids are Having Sex!'

The decision by a Portland, Maine school board to allow birth control pills to be distributed to girls as young as 11, without parental consent, set tongues wagging in media outlets across the country.  The contrast between liberal and conservative coverage was remarkable.

On the October 17th episode of Good Morning America, conservative commentator Glenn Beck debated the topic with “sex educator” Logan Levkoff.  Diane Sawyer “moderated” but it was obvious she was using Beck as a foil. 

SAWYER: "And we want to tackle this, but, Glenn, let me start with you. You may not like it. You may want parents to go in and take care of their own children and make sure that they're not sexually active that young, but it's happening. It's happening."

GLENN BECK: "Yeah. Well, that's why they're giving away condoms. We're taking a next jump here, which is the disturbing part for me. You're already getting condoms. How easy are we going to make it? Now we get birth control as well."

SAWYER: "Yes, but if it protects these young girl, if it's more protection for these young girls--"

BECK: "Let me ask you this. Why does the state of Maine have a law on the books now saying it's illegal to have sex under 14? They're sending mixed messages. In the state of Maine, you cannot have sex under 14--"

SAWYER: "Well, but that's a legislative issue, what about these actual girls?"

BECK: "I understand that. They're saying because they are not emotionally capable of making the decision of having sex. You're talking about an 11-year-old and you're cutting the family out of the process."

SAWYER: "All right. Logan, 11-year-old, and it can be done privately as we heard."

LEVKOFF: "Well, it could be and parents should be the sex educators of their children. They can be the best ones. The problem is that not every parent feels empowered to do this. Not every parent feels he or she has the skills. And if you've already expressed your issues and values about sexuality to your kids, than if contraception is being offered in these school-based health programs, than your kids understand what your values are. And if they're not, and if they're not, if your parents aren't talking to the kids, then you better be thanking your lucky stars that someone is taking care of their sexual health."

(For more on this exchange, click here.)

Later on October 17th, Glenn Beck showed a clip from his GMA appearance on his own program, and discussed the issue with Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League.

BECK: The sex educator (referring to Levkoff) doesn't really draw a line. We're at 11. She doesn't draw a line at any age when we should start handing out the pill.

DONOHUE: Well, you know, this is the goal of the sexual engineers. It has been for a very long time. This libertine notion of sexuality. But two points here, Glenn. One a legal one, and the other sociological. If this school goes ahead, if this school district and this commission goes ahead and approves this, there should be a lawsuit brought. On what basis? Aiding and abetting the delinquency of a minor.

BECK: Absolutely.

DONOHUE:  On the sociological point, I would say this. You know, the original feminists, I'm talking about the ones in the 19th century, they understood that one of the goals of their movement was to protect innocent women from being preyed upon by irresponsible men. There's no question that young men have always been throughout all of history in all societies the most irresponsible segment of society. You know what the message is being sent to young men, and I'm talking about ones who are also over the age of 18? The message that will be sent to young men is this: they're fair game. The girl is just off her tricycle, she's 11 years of age, you can't even dispense an aspirin to the kid in the school but you can get them the birth control kit.”

Donohue made a very important point.  In school districts around the country parents have to give permission to the school nurse in order for their children to take over-the-counter medications like Tylenol.  Now, this school in Maine will be providing a prescription drug to minors without having to tell the parent. 

On October 18th, the morning after the school board approved the measure allowing birth control to be distributed in the school, NBC's Today Show featured Meredith Vieira and Dr. Nancy Snyderman, the network's doctor-on-call.  Speaking as moms, both women were concerned that the school health clinic could provide birth control pills to children without parental knowledge.  But the concern stopped there. 

VIEIRA: "You wear two hats. One - doctor, the other one - mom. Very controversial subject. Do you believe that middle schoolers should have access to birth control pills?"

SNYDERMAN: "Which hat do you want me to have on?"

VIEIRA: "Put your mom hat on first."

SNYDERMAN: "As a mom I would be very concerned if my 11-year-old were on birth control pills and I didn't even know that she were sexually active. Now the nurse in this story, as a public health care advocate, knowing that kids are having sex, her job is to protect them then, to keep them from having unwanted pregnancies. So, I, I get that. If anything this should be a shock and real rattle to the cages to American parents. I don't care who you are, I don't care what color you are, I don't care what your socioeconomic status is, middle-school kids are having sex. So perhaps the bigger question is are we educating our kids properly, early on? And I do know that a lot of parents are saying, 'But I should know about it.'"

VIEIRA: "Absolutely! These kids are minors. That's their point."

SNYDERMAN: "So here's one thing to remember. In order to be seen in that health care clinic you have to have parental consent and then this is where it gets dicey. There are very strict federal rules about patient privacy and once you are a patient, you know, you can't always, parents can't always tell. It's sticky. It's really sticky."

VIEIRA: "But that's the problem. It's that the parent signs up for the kid to, to go to the center but then whatever treatment the child gets there, the parent doesn't necessarily ever know about it."

SNYDERMAN: "Right and the nurse, in this case, says, 'Look if six kids I know are having sex and I can prevent six unwanted pregnancies and having their lives fall apart, isn't that responsibility?' I don't think this is one of those cases where you can come out on either side and say, 'It is clear cut.' Because as two moms, you and I get both sides of the issue. It is, however, a reminder you have to start having these conversations when your kids are four, five and six. Not about sex, but about body parts and love and, and how these things develop."

VIEIRA: "Is there any health risk to giving these pills to kids at 11, 12, 13 years of age?"

SNYDERMAN: "Probably not. Bigger risk getting pregnant."

Is the bigger risk getting pregnant?  The school board voted not only to provide birth control pills, but also the birth control patch.  In 2006 Ortho-MacNeil Pharmaceutical, the maker of a popular birth control patch was sued by 40 women who claimed the patch caused serious health problems and at least one death.

While the lack of parental consent in this issue is something the liberal media addressed in their coverage, the other issue – the implicit condoning of middle school kids having sex by providing them a full range of contraception – was swept under the rug. So was the government usurpation, by way of the public school, of parental authority and responsibility.

As Dr. Snyderman said, “Middle school kids are having sex!” Rather than letting that be a call for contraception, shouldn't it be a wakeup call to our culture? If 11-year-olds are having sex, there are greater problems that need to be addressed than any pill can ever hope to cure … or prevent.  

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.