Health clinic assisted a student seeking abortion properly under the law
Health-clinic workers at Ballard High School did nothing wrong when they helped a pregnant student seeking an abortion, The Seattle Times editorial board says.
THE public reaction to the story of a 15-year-old Ballard High School student who got an abortion shouldn't compromise the important roles of school-based health clinics and medical privary rules.
Facts threaten to be eclipsed by political grandstanding about choice. Seattle Public Schools does not run the clinics. Health centers located at 14 city schools are run by private providers and three by Public Health Seattle & King County.
Swedish Medical Center runs the Ballard location. Health workers at the clinic gave the girl the information she needed to obtain an abortion and a referral — actions well within the clinic's medical and legal purview.
Washington is one of a handful of states without parental consent or notification laws. Minors may receive an abortion and abortion-related services without consent of a parent, guardian or the father of the child.
Privacy is critical for open and honest communication between medical practitioners and patients. Victims of incest or rape may be less likely to seek help if they knew their parents would be informed.
At school-based clinics, parents or legal guardians must sign a consent form before services requiring parental consent are provided. And for services not requiring parental consent, the form is crystal clear:
"Youth may independently access reproductive health care at any age; they may independently receive drug and alcohol services and mental health counseling from age thirteen. If necessary, the Centers will inform youth of options for outside care and will assist the youth in discussing these issues with parents/guardians."
Another passage deals directly with reproductive health. "I understand the youth's consent is legally required for release of information about the following kinds of diagnoses and treatment: pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV/AIDS testing), and alcohol and drug or mental health counseling."
Anger at the school district and health-care workers is misdirected. The girl was provided a safe and confidential haven.
Too bad a young girl's mistake is now a volley in debates about choice and parental rights.