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May 28, 2008

Rep candidate denounces Northeast stance on birth control at GHS

State representative candidate Astrid af Klinteberg yesterday condemned Northeast Health System for resisting discussion of offering birth control at Gloucester High School, where pregnancies have quadrupled into what has been described as an epidemic.

A bar advocate or public defender with a practice in juvenile issues, af Klinteberg said she was "dismayed" to learn that Dr. Brian Orr and nurse practitioner Kim Daley had resigned from the Gloucester High School Health Center to protest what Orr describes as Northeast's resistance to allowing birth control to be given to students.

Af Klinteberg called the resignations a "tragedy," and urged Cindy Donaldson, the executive director of Addison Gilbert Hospital, to "re-engage in the effort to solve the pregnancy crisis at the high school."

She also accused Northeast of "imposing its values on the community."

"By not allowing the discussion of whether to confidentially dispense contraceptives (something the students would have access to with their own doctors), the leadership of Addison Gilbert and Northeast Health System is cutting off a vital option in dealing with the important issue of teen pregnancy," af Klinteberg wrote in a statement e-mailed to the Times last evening.

Northeast declined comment on af Klinteberg's critique, but Northeast spokeswoman Heather Jones released a statement to the Times challenging Orr's characterization of the nonprofit regional health and hospital corporation as resisting the option of birth control in a school health clinic that is funded by the state and administered by Northeast.

Jones's statement — also e-mailed to the Times — said the Student Health Center Advisory Board, from which Orr and Daley resigned, decided last Wednesday to present to the School Committee a "formal plan" for its approval. The plan call for the dispensing of "confidential oral contraceptive" through the high school clinic.

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