Denver At least once a day, a teenage girl walks into North High School's health clinic, wanting to find out if she's pregnant.
Frequently, it turns out she is.
With the city's teen birth rate more than double the statewide rate of 24.3 births per 1,000 girls between the ages of 15-17, Denver school officials are considering a proposal to dispense contraceptives in six school-based health clinics that serve the district's most impoverished students.
The recommendation by a task force studying the future of the clinics comes shortly after a highly publicized Portland, Maine, case in which the local school board allowed a clinic to dispense birth control to middle-school students.
The Denver proposal would apply to only high school students, but it has raised many of the same concerns: Opponents say the easy availability would encourage kids to have sex.
Proponents counter that kids who have chosen to have sex should have as much access to birth control as possible.
"While it's not a panacea to unplanned pregnancies, access is extremely critical," said Lori Casillas, executive director of the Colorado Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Parenting and Prevention.
The majority of the country's school-based health clinics do not dispense contraceptives, said Divya Mohan, spokeswoman for the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care. In some cases, the school districts prohibit it.
That's the case in Denver Public Schools, where students can visit one of six high school-based clinics for pregnancy and STD testing. But if they want condoms or birth control pills , officials refer them to a community health center off campus, said Dr. Steve Federico, who oversees the school clinics for Denver Health, which also runs a hospital and other community health centers in the city.