New York’s morning after pill program for high school students criticized
New York, NY, United States (4E) – New York City’s program granting emergency contraception to high school students through public school nurses which was launched last January 2011 is facing criticism.
More than a thousand students has obtained morning-after pills since the pilot program called CATCH or Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Health, is made available in 13 New York City schools known to have a higher rate of pregnancy and less access to healthcare.
Its main concern is to curb unplanned pregnancies among teens, according to health officials.
School nurses are allowed to provide students emergency contraceptive pills, designed to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or a contraceptive failure if taken within 72 hours. The program also provides condoms, birth-control pills and pregnancy testing.
Some city resident have welcomed the program, saying it is a great tool to contain teen pregnancy while others look at it as a misguided and potentially harmful intrusion into the lives of families and the authority of parents.
Alexandra Waldhorn, health department spokeswoman, noted that there are over over 7,000 young women becoming pregnant by age 17 in New York City, 90 percent of which are unplanned.
Parents, who were informed of the program from the start, can voluntary opt-out from any or all of the services but many supported the program. Only between one percent and two percent of parents returned an opt-out form, she said.
A New York State Assemblyman, Marcos Crespo, a Democrat representing parts of the South Bronx, asked Mayor Michael Bloomberg to promptly cancel the program because it is unconscionable for New York City’s government to implement any program that gives medication to students without the prior authorization of parents.
The President of the New York City Parents Union, Mona Davids, said the city’s department of education and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have completely overstepped their bounds by affecting a child’s health without their parents’ direct knowledge.
Some anti-abortion advocates protests the use of morning-after drugs, which functions by stopping the release of an egg, preventing fertilization.
The Food and Drug Administration said the pill can be taken after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy, either by stopping the release of a female’s egg, stopping sperm from fertilizing an egg or preventing a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb. Its main purpose is to prevent and not to end pregnancy.
Since last year, the program has provided 567 students with emergency contraception pills while 580 students received birth control pill, Reclipsen.
Free condoms are freely distributed in all New York City schools, but the city’s health officials believe New York City is the first to make hormonal contraceptives available.