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Do Children have a right to confidential family planning / birth control?

 

A public school's private shame

It's almost September. Do you know where your kids are?

By Roy Maynard

As summer draws to a close, the nation's schools and the nation's legislature both return from recess. In Washington, members of Congress will soon learn about a nightmare account of a teenage girl's alleged seduction by a public-school teacher-and how one of the federal government's programs is to blame for hiding it from her parents. Washington dispenses "family-planning" money, so clinics across the country can dispense "free" contraceptives, on the condition of confidentiality. Some members of Congress want to change all that-and they'll point to the sad case of one family as an example of why it's important to do so.

Betty Doe (not her real name) is spending the final days of summer painting her room. The 16-year-old's photos of actors and actresses from black-and-white films are down for now, as are the posters of her favorite musicians. No, not Aerosmith or Smashing Pumpkins-Charlie Parker and his fellow jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins. They're rolled up carefully and laid aside, near the trophies and awards this former athlete collected ... before.

And she's regained a little weight this summer, after some weeks of going for treatment at a day hospital for anorexia nervosa. She eats now, but only if her mother and father sit at the table in their suburban Illinois home with her, making sure she doesn't hide the food. And she's practicing her music again; she has a good shot at winning a college scholarship next year (she plays six instruments, but like the Bird and Sonny Rollins, she loves saxophone the best).

But some things are still missing. She was gregarious before; she's mostly alone now. Most of her friends were simply scared away by Betty's depression; others have trouble dealing with the weight of what happened.

Beginning when she was 13 and lasting for 18 months, Betty was allegedly molested by a gym teacher at Crystal Lake North Junior High School. Betty says the teacher, 37-year-old William Saturday (his real name), told her he loved her, even as he led her into darker and more depraved sexual practices, according to her family.

She finally told her parents in February. Today, Mr. Saturday is in jail, facing 10 counts of criminal sexual assault, eight counts of child pornography, and two counts of official misconduct.

What makes it worse, Betty's parents say, is that the government aided and abetted Mr. Saturday. They say he did not want to rely only on his condoms, demanded that Betty use some type of birth control, and took her to the McHenry County (Illinois) Health Department clinic. As he waited outside, she received an injection of the controversial drug Depo- Provera, which is purported to prevent the release of a female's ovum for three months.

He took her back three months later for another shot, Betty says, and once more three months after that. County officials knew Betty's age, but in keeping with rules governing the use of funds from federal Title X family-planning programs, clinic workers did not notify her parents that she was getting the shots, even though the age of consent in Illinois is 18.

Through her parents, Betty is now suing Mr. Saturday, the school district, and the principal of North Junior High School (her attorneys say the principal was informed something was going on, but never investigated it) and the county health department, for $17.5 million. Attorneys for the school district and the county were unavailable for comment. J. Kevin McBride, who represents Mr. Saturday on the criminal counts, returned a phone call to WORLD, but would only say that his client is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.

In an exclusive interview with WORLD, Betty's father, identified in the lawsuit as John Doe, recalls the afternoon he learned of the alleged molestation. When he got home from work, his wife called him upstairs to their bedroom. As had become usual, Betty had locked herself in her own room.

"My wife was shaking," he said, "and she shut the door. I knew it was serious. Then she told me. There was no ranting and raving. I just remember trying to sit down, trying to think rationally. My wife, my best friend for 27 years, was coming apart. I had to try to comfort her, I had to try to think."

One of the most disturbing aspects of the nightmare is the knowledge that the county health department had reason to suspect his daughter was being molested, Mr. Doe charges. "But instead of telling me, the government injected my child with a chemical and kept it a secret. My first priority then and now is to take care of my family. But I would also like to help make sure this doesn't happen to other families. I would like to see Title X abolished, or at least changed."

It would be inaccurate to say that Mr. Doe had been apolitical before this; the fact is that politically, he's an odd duck. His distrust of government goes back to the Vietnam War, when he protested the draft. He quotes Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, and he opposes the death penalty. "I think it's time people woke up and realized that the government can be hazardous to their health and their families," he says. "It can do terrible things to innocent people."

But for the most part, he has stayed clear of the firestorm his daughter's case has caused.

At the center of that storm is the Title X money Congress has allocated for "family planning" over the last 27 years. Even beyond the parental consent issue, the program has been a dismal failure. It was designed to reduce teen pregnancies; it hasn't worked.

"Even though more teenagers are being exposed to these family-planning services, the rates of out-of- wedlock births, abortions, sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancies have all risen significantly in the teenage population since the program's inception," says Gracie Hsu, a policy analyst for the Washington-based Family Research Council.

There have been a few efforts in the past to scale it back or abolish it, but Title X has always survived-on the theory that teens, minorities, and welfare mothers are going to have sex anyway, so government should make it as "safe" for them as possible. And on the rationale that kids might be reluctant to seek the services if their parents could find out, the federal rules say the information must be kept confidential. Die-hard defenders of the program say Betty's case is unfortunate, but that doesn't mean the program is bad.

"We have done focus groups and interviews with youth all over the state on barriers to and access to care as they see it," says Jennifer Knass, who heads the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health. "Parental knowledge is the number-one barrier, not only to birth control, but to treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. Many of them report that they will not get care unless they have assurance their parents won't know."

But such sentiments seem in the minority in McHenry County. Parents have demanded that the county change its policy of keeping parents in the dark, though county officials have responded that by doing so, they would lose the $40,000 per year in Title X money the county receives via Washington.

That's fine, says Illinois state Sen. Cal Skinner. Taking the money is wrong in the first place. He says the strings attached to the money in this case kept a "student-teacher affair a secret." Mr. Skinner, a Republican from Crystal Lake, said, "The teacher was cheap and smart. He could have bought her birth control pills, but they might have been found by her parents. How do you find a needle prick? You can't."

But the political battle will come next month on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. The focus will be on the mammoth spending bill that will fund the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services for the next fiscal year, which begins in October. Tucked inside that appropriations bill is HHS's Title X program, which has a $198 million annual budget. Two upstate Illinois Republicans will face off over a parental-consent amendment to Title X that would require clinics to tell parents that they're giving their children birth control, with a few exceptions.

Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.), along with Oklahoma Republican Ernest Istook, offered such an amendment to a House committee before the August congressional recess; it was defeated by a vote of 29-28. House GOP leaders are allowing the two to bring the amendment to the floor anyway. There they'll be opposed by Rep. John Porter, a liberal Republican from a district nearby Mr. Manzullo's. Mr. Porter has entered a substitute amendment that would require clinics to "encourage" teens to notify parents.

The Family Research Council says that's not enough. "That's already the law in Illinois, and this horrible thing happened anyway," says the FRC's Sheila Moloney of Betty's case.

James Nagle, Betty's attorney, says that his client's case is solid even without that amendment. "As it was written in 1970, the statute did not take into account doctors giving birth-control injections of a drug that has never been tested on minors-I think that goes beyond even the most liberal interpretation of that statute."

And according to Illinois state law, Betty wasn't old enough to consent to sexual relations. Therefore, any sexual relationship she was in was a crime, which county officials chose to overlook, Mr. Nagle says.

Mr. Saturday's alleged seduction of Betty reads like a long, slow destruction of her spirit. According to her parents, Mr. Saturday began in the fall of 1994. He drove a group of kids to the Six Flags-Great America theme park in Gurnee, Ill., on Halloween night, in violation of school district policy. A day or so later, he invited Betty and other young teens to his home. On Nov. 4, he took them to the Around the Clock Restaurant, a popular eatery in Crystal Lake, and later to a movie. Betty told her parents how Mr. Saturday had "saved her a seat" and showed her special attention. Soon he was encouraging her to call him at home. She says he urged her to engage in sex talk.

By the next spring, she was allegedly meeting Mr. Saturday at his home. Their contact became increasingly physical, she says, and increasingly sexual. Mr. Saturday was careful, her father says, to undermine all of Betty's other relationships. The gym teacher couldn't stand to see her talk to any of the boys, and when he caught her, he would call her into his office, Mr. Doe recounts. And Mr. Saturday allegedly told her that her friends were no good, that he was the only person she could trust, the only person who truly cared about her.

The night before Betty graduated from the eighth grade, she told her parents, they had intercourse for the first time. She was 13 years old. He was 36.

The criminal indictments say the alleged molestations continued throughout the summer, at Mr. Saturday's home, in his car, even at some of the construction sites where he was working that summer. He allegedly pressured her to engage in sodomy; she initally resisted, she says, but eventually he prevailed. The act is listed in one of the counts of criminal sexual assault with which Mr. Saturday is charged.

By the fall of 1995, Mr. Saturday allegedly began demanding that Betty use some form of birth control other than his condoms. On Jan. 25, 1996, he drove her up Highway 14 to the town of Woodstock, the McHenry County seat. There, clinic workers gave her a Pap smear and a breast exam, then a doctor prescribed Depo-Provera. She got the first shot the next month.

By then, the alleged relationship was notorious at the school. The principal allegedly received several complaints from teachers and students, but he did not act, according to the lawsuit. Betty was nothing like the athletic, popular girl who had entered North Junior High School in seventh grade. She was often depressed, at times anti-social, and sometimes suicidal. Her anorexia was beginning to show itself. When her parents tried to talk with her, to find out what was wrong, she would lock herself in her room.

Mr. Saturday's alleged demands were increasing. She says he pressured her into posing for lewd photos, and into using sexual devices. She finally broke off the relationship in November 1996, her father says. She seemed a thin, debased ghost of her former self.

But she wasn't broken. "She has guts," her father says softly. "He couldn't take that away from her."

Indeed, it was her courage that led to Mr. Saturday's arrest.

The police needed hard evidence, they told the family, and asked if Betty would be willing to wear a wire. She agreed. She called Mr. Saturday and arranged to meet him. A few nights later, she was fitted with a concealed microphone (police would listen in and record everything). She was also given a silent pager, for police to signal her that they had enough evidence, so she could clear out before police entered.

When she met Mr. Saturday at his home, she led him into a discussion of their alleged relationship. Betty's lawyers say that Mr. Saturday admitted everything on that tape.

As she was getting ready to leave, she said, he looked at her and asked, "Am I going to be arrested?" She just left. Police rushed in and confiscated photos and sexual devices. Betty went back to the police station and broke down in her parents' arms. "All the emotion came flowing out," her father says. "She knew she was doing what was right, but she still thought of this guy as her first love."

That night, perhaps, Betty began to get better. The road back has been difficult, her father says, often discouraging, and extremely expensive. For weeks, she went to therapy for five days a week. She now goes three days a week (some of that therapy includes the rest of the family). She has reported suicidal thoughts, but those are getting a little less frequent. She still locks herself in her closet and cries, but that, too, is becoming less common.

And she can lose herself in her music. Next month, Congress will debate ways to keep more children from being lost. For now her father smiles and says that when he stands outside her door, he can't tell whether it's Betty or a Charlie Parker solo. That she can still play at all after her ordeal music to his ears.


Source:  http://www.worldmag.com/world/issue/08-23-97/cover_1.asp

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