Forest Grove School Board will discuss contraceptive vote
Forest Grove reportedly has the highest rate of teen pregnancies in the entire state.
For girls and women aged 15 to 19, 39 of every 1,000 in Forest Grove become pregnant, compared to the states' 21 of every 1,000 in the same age range, said Lacey Beaty, the program director of Virginia Garcia's school-based health centers.
Forest Grove's school-based health center is now the only one of six school-based health centers across Washington and Yamhill counties to not offer contraceptive services to its students.
In recent months, Hillsboro, Beaverton, Century, Tigard-Tualatin and Willamina school-based health centers have all been granted the right to allow such services, voted on by the school board.
On Monday, April 9, Forest Grove School Board members will begin discussing a plan that would allow nurse practitioners at the clinic to prescribe birth control to any student should they request it. The discussion is expected to continue at the meeting after that, on Monday, April 23.
The Forest Grove School Board has discussed the topic in the past, but it has never formally voted on it.
Under Oregon law, children as young as 15 can seek medical care without parental permission and students of any age are able to seek contraceptive services without parental approval.
Beaty is hopeful that Forest Grove will vote to pass the policy changes and become the sixth and final school-based center to do so.
"There are a lot of new elected school board members, for one, which really makes a big difference when those people are the ones enacting policy," she said. "I (also) think there has been a renewed focus on women and healthcare and I think what we see is a lot of students and parents, maybe for the first time, participating in activism."
Beaty said the school-based health center serves as many students' pediatricians.
"For a lot of our patients, there is no where else to go, we are their doctor," she said. "There are not a lot of places for students to access if they are underinsured or not insured. There are not a lot of safety net clinics, so we really need to make sure that we can provide comprehensive care for young women."
This is the final piece of care that isn't offered at the school-based health center, Beaty said.
"To carve out a piece of healthcare and forbid it, only for women, is absurd," Beaty said. "This was the only differentiating factor between us and clinics."
Beaty is pleased with the direction things have been going, with so many school districts changing their policies in recent months to allow for sexual health services, she said.
"I think it shows renewed partnership with us and school districts that we operate in," she said. "Because it's always been this kind of lingering piece that we weren't able to deal with, and I think it shows us that they are in it too and we are able to do this complete piece of service. ... Because it impacts 50 percent of the people that access our health center, so for us it was such an important piece."
A controversial topic for many, the discussion at the Forest Grove School Board meetings will be open to the public, and community members are welcome and encouraged to give their input.
Forest Grove's school-based health center is located beside Forest Grove High School at 1715 Nichols Lane and is open to all community members up to the age of 21 in the Forest Grove, Banks and Gaston school districts.
By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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