Baltimore City Council plans hearing on Norplant Use by teens is raising questions

January 26, 1993|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,Staff Writer

The Baltimore City Council decided last night it wants a public hearing on the Health Department's policy of giving Norplant, the five-year contraceptive, to teen-agers.

Second District Councilman Carl Stokes sponsored the nonbinding resolution that asks the Health Department for more information about Norplant. The contraceptive's safety, Mr. Stokes said, has not been proven in young black women -- though the contraceptive, which contains fewer hormones than birth control pills, has been used safely in other countries for 20 years.

The hearing is set for 3 p.m. Feb. 9 in the council chambers.

The councilman also said he doubts that parents are consulted before teen-agers receive Norplant, though Health Department officials say parents are notified in the overwhelming number of cases.

"I'm not against birth control," Mr. Stokes said. "I'm not against Norplant. I don't want to pass moral judgment on somebody else."

Earlier yesterday, he joined a group of ministers from Clergy United for the Renewal of East Baltimore in calling for more studies of Norplant's effects.

The Rev. Melvin B. Tuggle 2nd protested that the ministers had not been consulted before the Health Department began offering Norplant in city clinics nearly two years ago.

And he said he did not like the fact that most of the teen-agers who get Norplant in city clinics will be black. "I say to the city health commissioner: 'Take this stuff to the white private schools,' " Mr. Tuggle said.

In November, Dr. Peter Beilenson, Baltimore's health commissioner, announced the creation of the Baltimore City Norplant Consortium to help make Norplant available to sexually active teen-agers looking for a reliable contraceptive. Last week, the clinic at the Laurence Paquin School for girls who are pregnant or have just given birth, did the first Norplant insert in a school clinic.

Yesterday, Dr. Beilenson said that, in a city with an adolescent pregnancy rate among the country's highest, offering Norplant is "sound public health policy."

"We've run it by lots of people, adolescents and their parents in lots of places," Dr. Beilenson said. "We are simply making a contraceptive available for women. Period. We are not coercing anyone. We abhor that. It really is a choice issue. The Health Department does not believe in telling people what choices to make. We don't think other people should either."

Two-thirds of the Norplant consortium's members are women, he added, and half are minorities.

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