The New York City Department of Education is implementing a particularly progressive pilot program in 13 schools across the city — students as young as 14 at those schools will now have access to Plan B emergency contraception. The program is part of a wider effort to lower the rate of teen pregnancy, as some 7,000 New York residents under the age of 17 get pregnant each year. According to the Department of Health, more than half of those pregnancies are aborted.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn outlined the pilot program to CBS New York, warning how naïve and borderline irresponsible it would be to think that high school freshmen didn't need access to emergency contraception:
High school students are very sexually active and getting pregnant so we don't have that luxury to think that they are too young to be engaged in conversations about contraception and sexual education.
Though parents can opt out (and the Department of Education has sent notices alerting parents about the protocol for opting out), only about one to two percent of parents thus far have chosen to do so. That doesn't mean that the program — called, I think a little unfortunately if one considers the STD angle, CATCH, as in Connecting Adolescents To Comprehensive Health — hasn't attracted its share of vocal opposition. Many parents who oppose making Plan B available to high school students take issue with the fact that students don't need parental permission or notification, a feature of the program that Quinn insists, in spite of the control issues some parents may have, is absolutely essential:
I think that it is correct to not have parental notification. Just as I do as it relates to no parental notification around abortions because the complexity of it, although reflexively that sounds right, it really will end up in reality rendering the resource useless for many of the girls who need it most.
One mother who called in to 1010 WINS wondered who would pay for the program, and then offered the following family-first sentiment: "I would hope that a 14-year-old girl would have that kind of relationship at least with her mother." By "that kind of relationship," the woman was referring to a 14-year-old girl's ability to tell her mother (or father, or grandparent, or whomever) that she had had sex, believed she was pregnant, and wanted to just give a heads-up that, hey, she was going to pop over to the nurse's office and grab the morning-after pill. That's treacherous territory even in a particularly open parent-teenager relationship, and it takes an awfully mature kid to not only admit a mistake, but to be proactive about confronting it. Despite the disappointment a parent might feel. Despite the lurking stigma of teenage pregnancy.
Parents may not think their teens consider stuff like that, but, with varying degrees of intellectualization, they do. Not many people want to risk disappointing a parental figure, and, besides, not everyone's parental situation is Gilmore Girls equitable.
New York City Public Schools Offering ‘Morning-After Pill [CBS New York]