Although condoms have been provided free for years in most public schools around the country, for the past year, 13 schools in New York City have been giving teens access to oral contraceptives, including the morning-after pill without parental consent, in an unpublicized pilot program. The New York Post notes that the program, called CATCH—Connecting Adolescents To Comprehensive Health—is part of a citywide attempt to stem the tide of teen pregnancy, which, according to Yahoo News, leads girls—mostly poor—to drop out of school.
According to the Associated Press, about 7,000 girls get pregnant by the time they reach the age of 17, and more than half choose to get an abortion. Through CATCH’s program, students can get birth control from the school nurse confidentially. Teenagers can also access prescriptions to oral and injectable birth control, which are written by city health department doctors. Teenagers are also given access to the morning-after pill, which can prevent an unintended pregnancy for up to 72 hours after unprotected sex.
The program allows parents to “opt-out” of allowing their daughters to participate in the program; a letter was sent to parents at the beginning of the school year, but to date, only about 1-2% of parents had opted out of allowing their children to participate in the program.
I don’t know about you, but it seems to me as though parents should have to “opt in” to allow their daughters to participate in this program. If CATCH really cared about connecting adolescents to comprehensive health, then it seems as though one of their primary goals should be to educate parents and help parents engage with their kids about healthy sexual health. Additionally, it seems to me that the problem is not just ending teen pregnancy via providing access to the morning after pill and similar birth control, but addressing risky sexual behaviors on the front end, and preventing unprotected sex and delaying sexual experimentation.
As Kevin asked earlier this week, where are the parents in this? Have we abdicated our responsibilities to the schools (or to the media)? What are you doing to provide a comprehensive understanding to your son or daughter about sexual health? If you need help, we have a number of resources on the site to encourage you as you talk with your kids about healthy sexuality. I would also encourage you to become educated about what your kids are learning through their school’s sex-ed program.