Public high schools in New York City have given away condoms for years. Now over 50 schools hand out birth control pills, including the abortifacient Plan B, to girls as young as 14—without alerting individual parents.
At 13 schools the Plan B giveaway is supported by a city anti-pregnancy initiative called “Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Healthcare” (CATCH). Funded by the city at $300,000 for a three-month period, the program began giving out Plan B in January 2011. It went largely unnoticed until a New York Post article this September.
Although privately run clinics at many high schools have offered birth control, including Plan B, for the past four years, CATCH is the first instance of the city directly providing the so-called emergency contraceptive, which prevents implantation of an embryo if taken within 72 hours after sexual intercourse. Besides pills, CATCH offers free regular shots of the hormonal birth control Depo-Provera.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last year declined to allow teens under 17 to purchase Plan B over the counter, so doctors working with the schools sign prescriptions for students. During last year’s pilot program at five high schools, CATCH provided Plan B to 567 students, and the birth control pill Reclipsen to 580. Girls between the ages of 15 and 17 in New York City schools conceive over 7,000 pregnancies each year. Two-thirds end in abortion.
District officials say they broadly informed parents of CATCH in letters, giving them the chance to opt out, but only 1 percent or 2 percent did so. (At least one parent told the Post she never received an opt-out letter.) Mona Davids, president of the New York City Parents Union, told The Associated Press that Plan B should have been offered only on an “opt-in” basis: “They can’t even give our kids aspirin or Motrin without informed consent. This is a chemical hormonal drug cocktail.”