Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Forced pregnancy testing to attend school: What could be wrong with that?

Let me count the ways this Louisiana high school's policy of pregnancy testing girls and excluding those who test positive or refuse testing* from school fails, well, in just about every way. I have eight.

  1. It punishes only one partner in the "crime" of conception. Will there also be paternity testing and exclusion of the boys or men responsible from school?
  2. It deals with a runaway horse after it's left the barn. Could these monies be better spent on, say, appropriate sex education or--gasp--birth control distribution?
  3. It violates the law. Excluding a girl or woman from a free and appropriate, least restrictive education for a health condition? Nope. Not OK.
  4. It sets a very dangerous precedent. What will schools be able to test for next, without cause? In this case, the only "cause" necessary is having ovaries. Do we really want to go to the edge of that slope?
  5. It is an irrational response to what a pregnant teenager needs. She needs an education, she needs to know that society won't shun or shame her while protecting the anonymous person who fathered the child, and she needs to know that being pregnant and planning to carry a child to term does not have to mean that her life, her reputation, and her self respect are all dead.
  6. It violates health privacy laws. The only person who should have any awareness of whether or not a teenage girl is pregnant is the girl herself and her health care provider. 
  7. It is unnecessary in any educational sense. School officials do not need to have this information in-hand to execute their duties as educators appropriately; pregnancy has nothing to do with whether or not a student has a capacity to learn in a free, unrestricted, appropriate environment.
  8. It is designed to shame. Period. I am baffled about the cognitive dissonance required to holler about respecting life and embryos and fetuses while simultaneously acting as though having sex and being pregnant were the most shameful things a woman can do--not a man, of course--and require public shaming and shunning.
I'd like to think or hope or wish that the days of the Scarlet Letter are over--it's been centuries, after all--but given the continuing war on women--and high-school girls--clearly, we have a long way to go, baby. 

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*Added after posting. Also, the school's policy is described here as quoted below, with a link to the policy document:
According to its student pregnancy policy, Delhi Charter School "reserves the right to require any female student to take a pregnancy test." If the test is positive, "the student will not be permitted to attend classes on the campus of Delhi Charter School."

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