A Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School Board meeting vote that would have decided on whether or not to open up a Planned Parenthood clinic at a local high school was delayed on Monday after hundreds of protesters showed up outside the high school, adding even more pressure to the controversial issue.
Following the reversal of Roe v. Wade last month, as well as California’s continued affirmation that it is now a sanctuary state for those seeking abortions, different parts of the state have continued to expand abortion access, as well as contraception services.
As part of this expansion, Planned Parenthood, along with John Glenn High School in the Los Angeles County city of Norwalk, pushed for a clinic to be opened in the high school. Abortions would not be performed in the high school for a multitude of legal and health reasons, but workers there could direct any students interested in going to locations outside the school for that purpose. The main reason for the clinic would be to provide contraception to students. Routine medical services, such as physical examination, would also be offered.
Legally, the proposed clinic is also likely in the clear, with California law allowing minors to consent to reproductive and sexual healthcare services.
However, many parents oppose this, and felt that parental rights had been violated. Others, including non-parents in the district, were upset that a public entity like the school district was entering into an agreement for such a clinic to be in the high school. As Norwalk is heavily Latino, and the school district being roughly 80% Latino students, Catholic Latinos have been a major presence in the protests, adding to the diversity of people who have come out against the clinic.
A proposed high school Planned Parenthood clinic
“Families and taxpayers should be horrified that the Norwalk-La Mirada USD is considering a partnership with Planned Parenthood,” said Nicole Neily, president and founder of non-profit Parents Defending Education on Monday. “The fact that the contract specifically notes that ‘under California law minors have the right to consent to reproductive health services without parental consent or notification’ is appalling in and of itself – as is the list of services that will be offered to children, from STD treatment to IUDs to ‘referrals to other health centers operated by Provider for services not offered at the Schools.’”
Carmen Rodriguez, a parent and protestor in Norwalk, added in a Globe interview on Tuesday, “If Norwalk was looking to unite the city together, they really did it. I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen a group this diverse here all on the same page of something. But that should tell you just how many don’t want this clinic, if you can even call it that, in a school.”
“I’d like to believe that, maybe, the district is worried about students’ health. In that case, why not just expand regular health services not associated with an abortion provider? This proposal makes no sense.”
Those in favor of the Planned Parenthood clinic noted that the proposal would “encourage students to involve their families in decision making” regarding reproductive health services and that clinics would provide “a safe space in each school where students can receive the education and health services they need to lead healthy lives.”
“Mental and behavioral health issues, substance use, and lack of knowledge around sexual health can create barriers to academic success,” said Planned Parenthood Los Angeles president Sun Dunlap when a high school clinic program was first proposed in 2019.
The large protests on Monday ultimately helped delay the vote on the matter, with the ongoing controversy also playing a major role.
“The Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District Board of Education will postpone discussion of Board Agenda Item #12a regarding the Planned Parenthood clinic at John Glenn High School,” noted the district in a Monday statement. “As a result, action will not be taken this evening during the regularly scheduled Board Meeting.”
The seven member school board is expected to reschedule the vote for some time in the coming months.
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