School Based Clinics: Part Three

October 27, 1999

Each year more and more schools establish school based health clinics to deal with rising teen pregnancy. Schools mistakenly believe that providing teens with greater access to birth control information and devices will help deal with the problem. But study after study shows that these clinics are not as effective as proponents might like to think they are.

Today, more and more advocates of school-based health clinics are citing a three-year study headed by Laurie Zabin at Johns Hopkins University, which evaluated the effect of sex education on teenagers. The study of two school-based clinics in Baltimore, Maryland showed there was a 30 percent reduction in teen pregnancies.

But even this study leaves many unanswered questions. The size of the sample was small and over 30 percent of the female sample dropped out between the first and last measurement periods. Since the study did not control for student mobility, critics point out that some of girls who dropped out of the study may have dropped out of school because they were pregnant. And others were not accounted for with follow-up questionnaires. Other researchers point out that the word abortion is never mentioned in the brief report, leading them to conclude that only live births were counted.

On the other hand, an extensive, national study done by the Institute for Research and Evaluation shows that community-based clinics used by teenagers actually increase teen pregnancy. A two-year study by Joseph Olsen and Stan Weed found that teenage participation in these clinics lowered teen birth rates. But when pregnancies ending in miscarriage or abortion were factored in, the total teen pregnancy rates increased by as much as 120 pregnancies per one thousand clients.

Each year more schools become convinced that the only way to stem the tide of teen pregnancy is to implement comprehensive sex education and establish school based health clinics. Yet the best evidence doesn't show that they work.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.