Carrying placards reading "Stop Norplant genocide" and "No Norplant experiments on our teens," more than 150 people jammed the Baltimore school board meeting last night to protest the city's plan to let schools offer the contraceptive.
The protesters, most of them members of the Nation of Islam, the black Muslim group led by the controversial Louis Farrakhan, called on the board to forbid school clinics to offer Norplant.
They denounced the contraceptive as "social engineering" designed to reduce the black population. They claimed it has not been adequately tested and said it encourages teen-age sex instead of abstinence.
"I would urge you to not use our girls as guinea pigs in this social experiment," said Debra H. Freeman, a spokeswoman representing Mr. Farrakhan's organization.
The protest came a month after Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke decided to let five high schools decide for themselves whether to offer Norplant to teen-agers in school clinics. Mayor Schmoke was out of town last night and could not be reached for comment.
After reviewing the cases of nine students who received Norplant during a four-month pilot program at the Laurence Paquin School -- a school for students who are pregnant or have recently given birth -- city Health Commissioner Dr. Peter Beilenson had suggested introducing Norplant at the other high schools that have clinics: Southern, Walbrook, Patterson, Dunbar and Southwestern. Walbrook and Southwestern are set to make Norplant available later this fall. The other three will decide later.
Noting that Norplant use never received legislative approval, Minister Jamil Muhammad, of Muhammad Mosque Number Six on Garrison Boulevard, called the mayor's decision an "ill-conceived and surreptitiously implemented plan.
"The parents and students of Baltimore City have been betrayed by an unholy alliance. Somebody in the hierarchy of Baltimore City thinks they can shove anything down our throats at any time."
Mr. Muhammad, one of three leaders of the Norplant opponents who testified, drew applause from much of the audience, which included about three dozen Muslim women in white garb and headdresses.
The opponents called for more education to reduce teen pregnancy instead of the use of Norplant, six match-stick-sized capsules inserted in an arm that slowly release a contraceptive hormone over five years.
Superintendent Walter G. Amprey and school board members agreed on the need for more efforts to reduce teen pregnancy and pledged to meet with the opponents.
One of the eight board members, Rosalind D. Wilson, drew loud applause when she said she opposes Norplant in the school clinics.