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School Gives Birth Control Pills To 11 Year Old Girls

You might have seen the recent news about the middle school in Maine – King Middle School, in the Portland school district – that is planning to provide birth control to pre-teens, without requiring explicit parental consent. School officials argue that this will help to prevent pre-teen pregnancies, and estimate that at least 5 out of 135 of their 11- to 13-year-old female students are sexually active already.

While I absolutely sympathize with the desire to avoid pre-teen pregnancies, and I do understand that there is a reality here that some very young children will become sexually active at the tender age of 11, I personally do not support giving pre-pubescent girls hormone-altering tablets. We do not have good studies demonstrating the safety of such therapies in children, and until we do it’s just not medically sound to be offering this treatment. (For example, we don’t know what extra estrogen does to early breast buds, or whether there’s an increased risk for developing breast cancer later on.)

I also think that 11 year olds are not physically and emotionally prepared for sexual intimacy – and the prematurity of this event could be quite harmful for their psyche. We know that 11- and 12-year-old brains are not fully developed to think the way adults do, so there’s really no telling what impact it could have or what long term psychological effects might result.

Apparently sex before the age of 14 is illegal in Maine, so (although there’s no doubt that it may happen prior to that age) it seems that the state’s legal system is not in step with their school system, and that needs to be looked at. It is inconsistent to claim that an activity is illegal for children and then enable it with tax dollars.

I suppose that education about the use of condoms and access to them (without aggressive promotion of them) may be acceptable at this age. After all, condoms can prevent STDs and don’t have medical effects on the body as a whole. But my plea is that parents take the lead here – and educate your children about the risks of STDs, pregnancy, and the emotional damage that premature sex can have on a young person. Advocate for abstinence as a first choice, explain that condoms are non-negotiable, and try to help them turn their focus away from sex and towards more age-appropriate endeavors.

A new Dove advertising campaign asks parents to talk to their kids before the beauty industry does, and I think the same goes for sex and the media. Today’s parent must launch a preemptive strike against the over-sexualization of children, or risk having their 11 year olds taking estrogen patches from a school nurse without their consent.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

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5 Responses to “School Gives Birth Control Pills To 11 Year Old Girls”

  1. C Coleman Brown MD says:

    Great and troubling information all around. With regard to your last paragraph Val, it’s ironic because Dove is actually promoting the same practice they are trying to get you to avoid. The fact that they want the kids to use their products before they need my services is ludicrous. I will agree with the over-sexualization of our youth. It is prevalent in everything from clothing to video games, toys and food. With a young daughter I can only hope I will teach her the ‘proper’ way of handling these issues. However, I do not think regulation of the industry is the right way. In our practice, we are very conscious of young women and men who may be interested in cosmetic surgery and are quick to refuse surgery or bring family into the equation when necessary.

  2. ValJonesMD says:

    Excellent and thoughtful points, Dr.
    Stacy, Dr. Joe, Mark, and J Arnold. I would agree with the emphasis on
    education above all else, getting parents as involved as possible,
    providing alternative activities, and teaching about condom use. I am
    doubtful about the safety and efficacy of estrogen tablets or patches
    in this age group (compliance -even with patches – is likely to be poor
    in my opinion). I also don’t like that such young children are gaining
    access to these drugs without explicit parental consent – and of course
    there is no STD protection with drugs either.

    I personally
    would like to see us take a stronger stand against sex in prepubescence
    - and give the kids the clear message that it’s not ok. Unfortunately,
    even with all the education, condoms, clear messaging, etc. in the
    world there will still be some unwanted pregnancies in this age group -
    but that doesn’t mean we should not do all we can to make it clear that
    this is not an age-appropriate behavior. Loving parents can make a big
    difference in their childrens’ perception of sex – and I bet that
    relationship building, frank discussions, and counselor-guided family
    workshops may make more of an impact than birth control pills in terms
    of unwanted pregnancies. Cutting parents out of the equation is missing
    a big opportunity for positive impact.

  3. maravillas says:

    I would strongly recommend all parents to get involved in their kids lives more actively, because I personally think that kids who look for sex at these early ages is due mostly because what they are really looking for is for love and  attention they are not finding in their parents and their homes, so kids wrongly think that by having sex, they are eventually filling up that gap that  parents irresponsiblely don’t fill.

    Schools also play a big role with this big issue. But obviously, ignoring the problem, and taking the easy path by just providing birth control pills is easyer for every body. This is a true sad reallity. 

    Obviously, the kids are not the only ones who need to be educated, but school staff, parents and the government.

    I personally think that by taking this step, the school system in Main is violating parental rights, and abusing these kids.   

  4. Anonymous says:

    This seems to be from the same school of thought that states, “Well kids are going to get into alcohol anyway, might as well provide it in a safe environment” (etc.) Providing prophylactics, hormone-based contraceptives and “health education” (sexual technique education, in many cases) simply does nothing to reduce the number of pregnancies, but encourages what is, in most cases, illegal

    sexual contact between adolescents, and occasionally illegal sexual contact between adolescents and adults.

    The fact of the matter is that the only proven way to prevent STDs is abstinence, regardless of how well parents and schools are reinforcing the concept. Condoms break, contraceptives do not protect against STDS, and if not taken properly don’t work at all. Sexual activity at a young age increases the risk of cervical cancer and studies show that the younger a person begins sexual activity often is indicative of an increased number of sexual partners (all leading to increased risk of cancer later in life.)

    Perhaps rather than promote sexual activity and provide contraceptives to pre-teens, we should clearly explain the dangers, and the criminality of the activity and then simply follow the laws already on the books and not given to this romantic notion of adolescent love. For some reason our society has developed a romantic view of adolescent sexual encounters, forgetting that children have developing bodies, minds and are not ready to be responsible enough to use contraceptives, much less parents.

    Yet it seems that, like the issue of abortion, what is most convenient for society at the moment out weighs the deeper moral and legal issues. Rather do the hard thing of defining and teaching right from wrong, our subjectivist society would rather do away with the concept of morals and just make things easier.

  5. ValJonesMD says:

    Well said, Anonymous. Thanks for your comment.

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