Last week, Gothamist published a post reporting that thirteen New York City public high schools have begun to dispense emergency contraception drugs – more commonly known as Plan B or the morning-after pill – to students.
The contraception measure is part of a city-wide health initiative called Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Health, or CATCH, which is an unfortunate acronym if you ask me. The program has roots in a 2011 pilot program, according to Gothamist:
During an unpublicized pilot program in five city schools last year, 567 students received Plan B tablets and 580 students received Reclipsen birth-control pills, according to the Department of Health. Parents can opt out of the program, but only about 1 to 2 percent of parents at each school have returned the opt-out sheets, said DOH spokeswoman Alexandra Waldhorn.
Even though the program is obviously not mandatory and parents can opt their children out of consideration for the drugs, obviously this measure has been a source of some discord among parents, city officials and even students. Not everyone agrees that children should even have access to these medications, let alone that schools should be permitted to dispense them.
Personally, I’m of two minds on this one. On the one hand, many teenage girls lack either the parental guidance to know about safe sex practices and/or the familial resources to have access to proper birth control without this program. For these kids, a pregnancy would be a heavy price to pay. On the other hand, I understand the thought that these schools are public institutions, and therefore this intervention represents public officials overstepping their bounds and playing the role of parent, counselor and health care provider. Absent children of my own, I honestly cannot say how I would react to my own daughter attending a school where she could receive Plan B just by asking.
This is one of those times when my professional training and experience simply cannot substitute for actual parenthood, so let me ask: what do you think? In the event that your daughter was sexually active and needed emergency contraception, would you want her to be able to get it at school? Do you think that she could feel comfortable coming to you in that situation?
(H/T to Gothamist for the Plan B image.)