Some New York teens will have another option if they find themselves in a frightening predicament after having unprotected sex. Rather than waiting it out and later dropping out of school due to pregnancy, having an abortion or any number of other alternatives that may turn her into just another statistic, a teen girl in a New York City high school can turn to her school nurse and receive the Plan B, or “morning after,” pill.
The New York Post reported Sept. 23 the New York City Department of Education is giving Plan B and other birth control drugs to students at 13 of the city’s high schools—without direct parental consent. Through the citywide CATCH—Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Health—program, the initiative is just the newest step in combatting the citywide epidemic of teenage pregnancy.
New York schools have supplied free condoms to teens for years, but never birth control pills, or hormone shots, and certainly not the morning after pill, which can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. During a pilot of the program in just five schools last year, 567 students received Plan B, while 580 students were administered birth-control pills.
In order to receive Plan B, which is sold over-the-counter to those 18 and older, but requires a prescription for those younger than 18, a student only needs to advise a school nurse she had unprotected sex. The nurse will administer a pregnancy test and, if negative, issue a prescription for Plan B. Parents are not notified.
Parents were sent letters informing them of the available options in the CATCH program, however. Those parents who did not want the options available to their children could sign a form to opt them out. According to the Post, about 1 to 2 percent of parents at each of the 14 participating schools chose to opt out.
Many students have welcomed the program.
“I don’t want to be a young kid who gets pregnant and can’t find a job,” one cautious freshman told The Post.
A 14-year-old pal, also interviewed by the Post, agreed. “I would go to the nurse without telling my parents, and I would ask for help,” she said.
According to the New York City Department of Health, 7,000 girls aged 17 and younger became pregnant last year, although 64 percent of the pregnancies were terminated. Of the 2,200 girls who became mothers before age 17, 70 percent dropped out of school.
“We are committed to trying new approaches … to improve a situation that can have negative consequences that last a lifetime,” the health department said in a statement.
NYC Department of Education. http://schools.nyc.gov/Offices/Health/default.htm
New York Post. http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/city_schools_plan_UoW7ke5l2KRwg43nHzt97H