Will Offering the Morning-After Pill to Students Encourage Unprotected Sex?
7 months ago
New pregnancy-prevention program doesn't require parental consent
New York City public high schools have begun dispensing the 'morning-after' pill to female students, some as young as 14 years old, without their parent's consent.
Under the city's new pregnancy-prevention program, CATCH (Connecting Adolescents To Comprehensive Healthcare), girls can see a nurse to also receive condoms, pregnancy testing, traditional birth control pills, and the injectable drug Depo-Provera, without telling their parents—unless mom and dad have opted out of having their child be eligible for the program altogether via a signed and returned statement to the school.
Though for the last four years oral contraceptives have been available to students at the majority of the 40 schools with health centers, CATCH—for the first time—allows the city's Health Department to make them available in institutions that lack the private health centers. CATCH was launched quietly in January 2011, but the pilot program went unpublicized—until now.
With 13 schools now implementing the new agenda, parents, doctors, and students are speaking up. Some fear that offering the emergency contraceptive Plan B—which is nearly 90 percent effective if taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex—will only rally for more risky behavior. Others believe it to be a necessary measure, taken to address a crisis.
According to Deborah Kaplan, assistant commissioner at the city's Health Department, nearly 7,000 girls in New York City, aged 15 to 17, get pregnant every year. At 90 percent, almost all of them are unplanned. Of those pregnancies, 64 percent end in abortion. Additionally, 70 percent of girls who become moms by the age of 17 drop out of school.
"We wanted to make sure young people who are sexually active have easy access to contraceptive services and general reproductive health services," Kaplan told NBC. "We’ve had no negative reaction to the CATCH program. We haven’t had one objection. We’ve just had the opt-outs. We’re proud to play that role in promoting and protecting the health of our young people."
But California-based psychiatrist Dr. Carole Lieberman is concerned that by disallowing mom and dad's direct involvement in the distribution of the contraceptives, it will weaken their parent-child connection, and do more harm than good to the teen's psyche.