(LifeSiteNews) — As a new academic year begins, a medical freedom group is warning parents about the reality of school-based health centers (SBHC) that operate to advise and provide students’ medical care without the crucial involvement of their parents.
Stand for Health Freedom (SHF) is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to informing and activating a grassroots movement to protect ourselves and protect our families.” Though its mission spans a number of issues related to informed consent, parental rights and freedom of religion, speech and privacy, SHF sees a growing issue within SBHC that threatens the rights of parents to make informed health decisions for their children.
“One thing that parents need to understand is they are there to offer primary health care services,” SHF executive director and co-founder Leah Wilson told LifeSiteNews in a phone interview. “And we have even seen in the literature and pediatric journal in 2014, way back then, they were already calling [these] school-based health centers ‘medical homes.’”
“The scope of services is well beyond what you would find with school nurse services. It goes into reproductive counseling, dental care, mental health counseling, behavioral services. And this replaces what your child would typically receive from a primary care provider with parental engagement.”
Wilson said that the centers use “pre-consent” to operate without parental involvement, “which is simply a one-page consent form being sent home at the beginning of the year. And there’s language such as this that gives consent for your child to see any and all health care providers in this health center.” The pre-consent opens the door for “very dynamic encounters” that may take place “without further parental knowledge or notification being required.”
Although the centers have been around since the 1970s, when they formed to provide medical care in rural and inner-city America, they have exploded with growth in recent years as government funding began to fuel the programs. For Wilson’s family, the issue became prevalent when the governor of her home state of Indiana prioritized SBHC as part of a “public health commission.”
In June 2022, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) was signed into law. Wilson pointed out that the legislative language includes “50-plus references to school-based health but only one reference to parental consent, and that reference isn’t even related to school-based health centers.”
The BSCA language, combined with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) offering grants specifically to establish SBHC, led Wilson’s family to “see this as part of a larger agenda to undermine parental rights.”
The HHS provided “nearly $25 million to improve and strengthen access to school-based health services in communities across the country,” according to a May 3, 2022, press release from the federal agency. The funds were distributed to 125 health programs offering “comprehensive” medical services.
“It’s bad policy,” Wilson said. “And it’s shortsighted to think that schools can replace parental involvement in health care. When you talk to most parents, they would tell you there’s a reason they don’t just drop their child off at the front door of the doctor’s office and leave and come back later. Even medical ethics don’t allow that.”
“As parents, how do we feel about our role being replaced in this sensitive position of authority? Because once a child leaves at age 18 and they no longer have a school-based health center guiding them through health, where does that leave them? Are they learning a habit of compliance rather than engagement, rather than responsibility for their own health?”
To combat the issue, SHF seeks to not only educate parents about the reality of SBHC but also inform and urge legislators to protect child innocence and parental rights. The group has state directors in 30 states who have been directly involved in challenging laws in Indiana, Maryland and Nevada.
Wilson emphasized the urgent need to address this issue and educate parents while political and educational leaders such as President Joe Biden share sentiments that “there’s no such thing as someone else’s child.”
“As that issue is continuing to build and emerge and we’re sending our kids back into the classroom, we want to educate as many parents as possible about what’s going on so they can go in with eyes wide open and continue to be their child’s best advocate,” Wilson said.
Public schools have also been responsible for helping minors access medical intervention for gender confusion and abortion behind their parents’ backs. Seattle Public Schools has been exposed for doling out free cross-sex hormones and surgery referrals to gender-confused students, conducted within SBHC.
Additionally, Planned Parenthood executive turned pro-life activist Abby Johnson recently described how school officials in some states are responsible for taking pregnant teenagers to abortion facilities and helping them kill their unborn children, all without parental knowledge or consent.
Asked if Wilson had seen these specific issues arise in her work with SBHC, she told LifeSiteNews that SHF had uncovered an “Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield policy guidance document, and it says the scope of these school-based health centers includes family planning and even listed a procedure vasectomy, which raises a lot of concerns.” Specifically, she said, they wondered, “are these vasectomies for our teenage boys or are they more [for] outsiders who have access to the school-based health center?” If the latter, “how does that affect the security of a school?”
Similarly, “specific stories” of school health officials whisking young girls off to kill their unborn babies without parental knowledge is not something that SHF has encountered directly but rather an “understanding [that] the scope of services include that.”
Advocating for medical freedom
SHF was launched in August 2019 “to give Americans direct access to their elect officials at the right time with a quality integrity message on kitchen table issues that families are increasingly caring about.” Wilson added that the group is motivated by a desire “to take away those barriers to the average, everyday citizen having access to those in positions of influence and who are making policy.”
Wilson told LifeSiteNews that SHF was sparked by her family being rejected as a foster family because the Indiana Department of Child Services deemed her two biological children as “a threat to the welfare of the foster children, since they don’t follow the CDC [Center for Disease Control and Prevention] vaccine schedule.” The state had stopped accepting religious exceptions to the requirements.
At that point, Wilson — who previously practiced construction litigation and antitrust law — decided to return to “full-time advocacy,” which was her biggest motivation to attend law school. While “a lot of people care” when it comes to making healthcare decisions for themselves and their children, Wilson found that “they don’t know how to navigate that informed consent issue.”
“Our goal is to grow those who are aware and taking action on these issues to 3 1/2 percent of the U.S. population, because there’s research that shows that if you grow a peaceful protest to 3 1/2 percent, a cultural shift will not fail.”
“We’ve gone about that by working with state directors on the ground,” Wilson continued. “So, we go into states and we find trusted organizations who are doing really great work on the same core values that we care about — parental consent, informed consent, religious freedom, freedom of speech and privacy — and we help empower them with wraparound services and resources.”
Since its launch, SHF has “helped more than 550,000 individuals take action, and we have over 5 million actions taken through our resources.” The group also has a Canadian branch that participates in “calls to action.” However, those involved in Canada are not actively engaged with the issue of SBHC.
‘Empower people to peacefully act’
Since most legislative sessions are currently in recess, SHF is focusing on “educating lawmakers on the issue to get the appetite thereto put guardrails in place.” By building these collaborative relationships, SHF hopes “to create language within bills and then get those across the line” that will protect children and parental rights.
“Our role at Stand for Health Freedom is to bring truth to light and empower people to peacefully act on that knowledge,” Wilson said. “We’re committed to seeing that people are aware of this issue, that guardrail get put in place to ensure their children are cared for in the best possible way, which we believe is with the guidance and active involvement of their parents, of their guardians. And their first and most consequential teachers are their parents.”
More information about SHF and its work can be found here.