New York schools piloting program to offer Plan B, birth control pills to students
A quiet test has been underway for nearly a year in select New York City high schools, where students are given easy access to birth control pills and Plan B, also known as the morning after pill. Parents are given the opportunity to opt out of their children participating, but so far few have done it. Some 1,000 students have been served so far.
A pilot program in New York City has been providing Plan B, sometimes called the morning after pill, as well as other contraceptives to students in a handful of city high schools.
Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Health Care program, CATCH, has been operating a pilot program since January. It was first introduced to five schools but over the course of the year has expanded to 14, with one of the original five dropping out, citing a lack of resources.
Parents were notified of the program and given the opportunity to opt out but, to date, just two percent of students are excluded from the program at their parent's request. Anemona Hartocollis, metro reporter for the New York Times, said about 1,000 students have received either conventional birth control pills or the morning after pill through the in-school program — about half and half.
"Basically, there hasn't been a big backlash from parents," Hartocollis said. "You can argue, I guess, as to whether they actually read those letters. Assuming they do, they don't seem opposed in large numbers."
But now, the school district is looking at expanding the program, making injectable birth control available to students, which allows students to get one shot every three months.
"Birth control, teenage pregnancies, those are sensitive issues," Hartocollis said.
City schools have provided condoms to students since the ’90s, but students now have the option to get these pills through their school nurse. Students under 17 are still required to have a prescription to get the morning after pill, though those are available from the city health department.
The availability of contraceptive pills from school nurses contradicts clearly with the availability of pain killers, like Tylenol or Advil. Most school nurses can't hand those over-the-counter drugs out without a doctor's permission.
But Hartocollis says, in states like New York and a few others, contraceptives are in a special category, where young people are guaranteed access.
"There are reasons why it may be done this way — having to do with relationships with parents, and confidentiality," she said.
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