I’m reminded of a story circulating around Ottawa: A prisoner in Kingston Pen writes a letter to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney complaining about how difficult it has been for him to get parole and he gets a letter back from the PM’s office saying, “…I have taken
this matter up personally with Prime Minister Mulroney, and he promises to improve postal service in your area…”
It’s the same situation with birth control clinics in schools – they want to do something god – but they don’t.
“We give all alternatives,” says Sue Johanson proudly, emphasizing the word all, “including abortion.” (This is when her clients have had a “contraceptive failure,” or an accidental pregnancy.)
Sue Johanson is an itinerant sex educator as well as a radio and TV host in Toronto, who also claims she speaks in person to an estimated 20,000 students throughout the year in public high schools in North York, a large suburb of Toronto.
“Abortion is legal,” she reminded me.
I reminded her of statement she made in a recent edition of Homemakers, boasting that North York and “the lowest per capital teen pregnancy in Ontario,” and suggested that it might indicate a large number of abortions.
“You are trying to put words in my mouth, Mr. Kennedy,” she answered. “It is our birth control clinics that have reduced the number of teen pregnancies.”
Sue Johanson also counsels teens who are already “sexually active.” She said, “They’re going to do it anyway. And when they do, I won’t be there and you won’t be there.”
However, when I asked Lori Turrik, the supervisor of Family Planning in North York, if the estimated 20,000 students in North York, to whom Sue had talked during the year, were sexually promiscuous, she denied it.
Lori Turrik described the school clinics as serving “health needs:” preventing social diseases, including AIDS, and of course, unwanted pregnancies. When I asked her who put up the money for the clinics, she said that the Ontario Ministry of Health provides 100 per cent of the funds, and they are housed free-of-charge in high schools, (Vanier and Earl Haig are two schools that were mentioned). They are open after 3:30 p.m. and on a number of evenings during the week as well. They were, she claimed, invited to provide this “service” by the principals, students themselves, (Earl Haig), or by parents who requested it.
Nurses occasionally supply birth control pills, diaphragms, condoms and IUDs. (Incidentally, when I told her that many brand name IUDs have been withdrawn from the U.S. market because they have caused cancer, sterility and some fatal infections, and that numerous law suits against IUD manufacturers have cost them millions of dollars, she said calmly, “they’re legal in Canada).
Lori Turrik said that chastity is the first thing stressed when girls and boys come in for counseling. However, she also said that they were already “sexually active” – or considering becoming so – when they came to “access” the clinics for information as to “decision making options.”
She considers the goals of the clinics to be the prevention of social diseases and the solution of problems caused by unwanted pregnancies. When I suggested that they would take a moral position (against promiscuity), pointing out that 90 per cent of the school population are of Protestant, Jewish, Catholic, Moslem, Hindu and other faiths, who believe these acts “unsuitable moral behaviour,” she replied that moral instruction should come from the home.
When I asked her why she didn’t have a rabbi, minister or priests, address the students in a school assembly hall (like Sue Johanson does), as to proper oral behaviour, she said that that would be a curriculum department decision, and the public schools do not have one exclusive dogma.
I told her that the prevailing “dogma,” when I was attending high school, was “Christianity,” due to the Protestant influence, and that today the “dogma” seems to be either secularism, or hedonism. “Is this new ‘dogma’ not completely opposed to the ethics and moral beliefs of the vast majority of the student body? I asked. She insisted that they are just providing a ‘health’ service for those who want it. What she wants for the students I what is best for them.
Pregnant students who come to the clinic are urged to inform their parents, and are told about the “alternative of adoption,” she said. The clinic also provides information on hospital abortions: Toronto General Western, Doctor’s (even Sick Children’s Hospital has a referral clinic for girls seeking abortions). No one has ever been referred directly to Morgentaler’s abortuary, she stated.
John Fillion, the Chairman of the North York Board of Education, told me he has never received a complaint about the operation of birth control clinics in the few schools that maintain them. He didn’t have an intimate knowledge of the operation of the clinics but says that he takes a “practical approach” to pre-marital sex. Although he strongly values chastity, he feels that the clinics are a necessary response to those who plan to engage in sexual intercourse, and that condoms are useful in preventing unwanted pregnancies and disease. Condoms, he asserted, are also a useful protection against AIDS for the small population of homosexuals attending both public and Catholic high schools. The clinics, he feels, provide information for those who want it.
Mr. Fillion said that the birth control clinics come under the Physical Education Department and he considers it a health problem concern, not a moral one, for the North York Public School Board. He appreciates the face that Catholics, and many others in the school system, feel that promiscuity sometimes leads to abortion, and many other Christians believe abortion to be murder.
I am amazed at the moral position of the North York Board of Education, which is to condone promiscuity, and abortion (if the client desires one), while at the same time acknowledging that many parents are opposed to such a stand. North York parents should be challenging the School Board’s assumption that the Board of Education has a mandate to provide birth control information and devices, and abortion counseling, to their sons and daughters.