With the new school year comes a new furor in New York City over a program that makes emergency contraceptives, or so-called morning-after pills, available to girls as young as 14.
The pilot program, which has been operating since January 2011, is part of the Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Healthcare program, or CATCH. It began with five schools in 2011, expanded to 14 and is now available at 13 schools, according to city officials.
“In New York City over 7,000 young women become pregnant by age 17 — 90% of which are unplanned. We are committed to trying new approaches, like this pilot program in place since January 2011, to improve a situation that can have lifelong consequences,” the city’s Health Department, which runs the program, said in a prepared statement.
In accordance with state law, students may obtain contraception without telling their parents in community clinics and school-based health centers.
The program allows parents to choose which types of reproductive services, including emergency contraception, they wish for their children — or to opt out of the program. Just 1% to 2% of parents have chosen to opt out, Health Department spokeswoman Alexandra Waldhorn said in a telephone interview with the Los Angeles Times.
The current furor began on Sunday when the New York Post reported on the program. It picked up steam when city officials were asked about the program at a news conference dealing with budget cuts.
The morning-after pill, also known as Plan B, is designed to prevent conception after unprotected sexual intercourse.
More than 2,200 New York residents become mothers by the age of 17, city officials say.
In the 2011-12 school year, 567 students received emergency contraception and 580 received birth-control pills through the city program, officials said.
Many others, however, received care in the private clinics. About a quarter of high school students have access to privately operated healthcare centers.