There’s a pilot program underway in 13 New York City schools that is sure to make conservatives cry that liberals are turning teenagers into sex-crazed delinquents.
Connecting Adolescents To Comprehensive Health, or CATCH, is aimed at clipping teen pregnancy rates, which simultaneously improves girls achievement and graduations rates since pregnancy causes many girls to drop out. The program targets selected schools in poorer districts without health care centers. The program allows teenagers to access Plan B in 13 schools and if successful the city plans to implement it citywide. According to the New York City Board of Health parents can “opt out” of the program, but so far only 1 or 2 percent have chosen to do so.
The program was first launched last year with five schools. In those five schools just under 5 percent of the 12,000 girls enrolled in those schools were given the Plan B prescription.
To enroll in the program school officials send letters to parents informing them of the availability of contraception. If they do not check a box letting the school know it is not to distribute contraceptives to their child, the student can access the drugs without any additional parental permission. Parents are given about a month to respond and opt out.
It’s an expansion of contraceptive services already available. Students already have access to condoms, but this now gives them access to Plan B, hormonal birth control pills and later this fall, Depo-Provera, an injectable form of birth control.
Of course, had the Obama administration not reversed course on an earlier decision to make Plan B available over-the-counter and without a prescription. According to the Board of Health, 7,000 girls under age 17 got pregnant last year throughout New York City and 90 percent of those pregnancies were unplanned. Of those, 64 percent were aborted and approximately 2,200 teenage girls became mothers by age 17. The New York City school system is doing the right thing by making sure its students have access to contraception, including emergency contraception. It’s just a shame it falls to them to do it.
Photo from skampy via flickr.