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As two organizations committed to increasing access to reproductive health care services for all Marylanders, we were glad to see The Sun highlight the availability of contraceptives in school-based health clinics ("Amid teen pregnancy decline, debate renewed about birth control in schools," June 6).

We applaud Baltimore City Heath Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen for recognizing the importance of contraceptive access as a critical component of comprehensive sex education.

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However, we are disappointed in City Councilman Stokes, among others, who would mischaracterize the issue as a violation of "parents' rights," or worse, as a racist policy targeting African-American youth.

It's ironic that such comments were published on the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, which legalized birth control for married couples.

Seven years later, Eisenstadt v. Baird extended the ruling to unmarried individuals and implied a right to potentially non-procreative sexual intercourse.

Minors, merely on account of age, are not beyond constitutional protections such as these, and as the court held in Tinker v. DesMoines, "are possessed of fundamental rights that the state must respect."

Numerous studies show that mandating parental involvement does not achieve the intended benefit of promoting family communication, but increases risk of harm to adolescents by delaying their access to accurate information and confidential reproductive health care.

Too many youth experience significant degrees of separation, abuse and neglect, frustrating their ability to discuss sexual activity with their parents. Allowing students access to health care in a familiar, trusting and consistent environment such as a public school-based health clinic is just good policy.

We would like to see this health care made available in all Maryland public schools to students of any race, gender or class. We should be empowering our youth with the tools they need to achieve their educational goals, not creating additional barriers by denying them access to basic reproductive health care.

Diana Philip and Spencer Hall

The writers are, respectively, interim executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and board president of the Baltimore Abortion Fund.

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