Students in Port Chester, N.Y. may soon be able to get pregnancy tests at school health centers. The clinics, which are in the village’s elementary, middle and high schools, will offer both pregnancy and STD tests, as well as offer counseling and referrals to students who test positive for pregnancy or infection. The clinics are run by Open Door Family Medical Centers and Port Chester is the only school district in Westchester County to host the clinics. Currently, the federally funded program gives immunizations and physicals, as well as mental, vision and hearing screenings. In addition to offering pregnancy and STD screenings, board members proposed to allow Open Door to conduct pap smears and dispense the “morning after” pill. That clause, however, was not approved with the rest of the measure.
One of the reasons for the proposal, according to school board members, was the fact that many girls weren’t finding out about their pregnancies until they were tested prior to routine vaccinations. The number of girls becoming pregnant was significant. In 2008, 19 of the 525 girls at Port Chester High School were either pregnant or already had children.
Some oppose the availability of pregnancy tests at school due to a state law that does not require parental notification. They are worried that students will throw caution to the wind if they do not have to worry about dealing with the consequences of their parents’ finding out.
When I used to work at a drug store, we had a lot of problems with young women stealing pregnancy tests. If a school is offering free tests, students may be less likely to resort to theft. On the other hand, I don’t foresee offering pregnancy tests at school having any affect on the number of girls becoming pregnant. The only difference is instead of the stores eating the cost of stolen pregnancy tests, the tax payers are paying for them. Let’s just hope the girls aren’t using as many pregnancy tests as I did when I was trying to conceive.
What are the ramifications for offering free pregnancy and STD tests to students? Do the benefits outweigh the costs?