The latest assault on parental authority comes in Maine. A school-based health clinic will now dispense oral contraceptives and contraceptive patches to girls ages eleven to thirteen. The girls must have their parents’ permission to use the clinic services, but once that permission is given, parents are not notified of what types of services are utilized. They will be dispensing powerful hormones to newly post-pubescent girls and their parents won’t have a clue.
What is the message this clinic is sending to the students? How about, Your parents don’t really know best. Their teaching is irrelevant. You make your own decisions and we will help you do what you want. Is the clinic staff going to take responsibility when one of the thirteen year olds has a stroke because she started smoking while taking birth control pills? Are they going to explain away her HIV infection because she got drunk and was gang raped at a party? After all, they told her loud and clear that it was fine for her to be sexually active in spite of her parents’ admonishments against it. Why should she listen to her parents’ objections to drinking, smoking, or drugs? This exclusion of parents in the critical decisions for their children is a serious threat to the social institution of the family. And as we have seen, the destruction of the family does not bode well for society at large.
Unfortunately, too many parents have become numb to this assault. It is now taken for granted that the school will teach about sex, the doctors will decide what immunizations are given, and the parish religious education office will teach children the faith. Too many parents are just passive observers. They just blindly chauffer their children from one indoctrination activity to another. And when a parent tries to wrest control from one of these institutions they are labeled as a trouble-maker, a fanatic, or an unfit parent.
From the Catechism:
The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures. Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities, other social bodies have the duty of helping them and of supporting the institution of the family. Following the principle of subsidiarity, larger communities should take care not to usurp the family’s prerogatives or interfere in its life. (CCC 2209)
Therefore, contrary to common practice, the schools, the state, the medical community, and the parish religious education program are there to assist me in the parenting of my children. It is my prerogative to dictate how much assistance I will accept.
For example, I opt my children out of the tenth grade sex education program at their public high school. Its lesson titles include Which contraceptive is right for you? and Are you gay? Of course I have heard some tongue clicking because I am sheltering my children too much. I don’t know why some people assume that if my children don’t get information at school, they will not get it. I am a board certified family physician with 15 years of active clinical practice under my belt including time spent as a physician in a college health clinic. Believe, me. I am not naïve about what kids know and do. I want my children to be prepared. But I prepare them with both biological and spiritual information in a unified “curriculum” that my husband and I teach them from early childhood through their teenage years.
It is time for parents to understand that being in the driver’s seat as a parent means more than just sitting behind the wheel of the minivan. It is time for institutions to abandon their adversarial stance towards parents. They are to cooperate with my agenda for my child, not fight it. No one loves my child more than I do. I am not the enemy. I am the parent.
UPDATE: Fr. Robert Araujo at Mirror of Justice has a wonderfully insightful piece on this topic.
AND ONE MORE THING: Since I wrote this piece I have been struck by another thought on the middle school health clinic issue that I have not seen addressed anywhere. What is the age of consent for sexual activity? Is anyone asking these middle school girls about their sexual partners? My guess it is they are not 11-year old boys. By handing out contraception to girls who are legally too young to give consent for sexual activity, aren't we possibly enabling them to be victims of statutory rape and/or sexual abuse?