New York City Public Schools Go to Plan B

The New York City Department of Education has been stocking nurses’ offices at 13 public high schools with Plan B, a “morning after” hormonal birth-control pill. The medication will be available free of charge to students as young as 14. No parental notification will be required for a girl to seek and be supplied with the emergency contraceptive.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn summarized the reasoning behind the plan to CBS New York:

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.

Some New York City public schools already supply condoms free of charge to students. Plan B has been dispensed since early last year, but the program was not widely known until the New York Post reported on it this past weekend.

The Department of Education, taking into account that family planning attitudes are different for every family, says it has notified parents from the start that they may opt out of the contraceptive dispensing program, which is saddled with the acronym CATCH—for Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Health.

MORE: Plan B: Morning After Pills Sold in Campus Vending Machines

So far, only 1 to 2 percent of heads of family have chosen to withdraw their children from Plan B eligibility.

According to New York City figures, more than 7,000 girls under 17 become pregnant in the city every year, and at least half those pregnancies are terminated. These figures may be central to why so few families are opting out of the program.

Concerned parents may realize that if their daughters are required to reveal details of their sex lives to Mom and Dad, starting with the admission that the girls have a sex life, they will be less likely to seek treatment that can prevent them from being counted among those pregnancy and abortion statistics.

“I think that it is correct to not have parental notification,” said City Council Speaker Quinn. “[Requiring parental notification] will end up in reality rendering the resource useless for many of the girls who need it most.”

Though directly affected families are overwhelmingly acceptant of the CATCH plan, vocal opposition does exist, at least on talk radio.

“Should the high school or the city pay for it? Are we responsible for that? I don’t think so,” said one New York woman to radio host Glenn Schuck.

“I just don’t agree with the morning-after pill for a child who really isn’t aware of what they’re getting themselves into at this point,” said another radio listener.

An over-the-counter medication dispensed without a prescription, Plan B has been available in the U.S. market since 1999. The pills prevent conception, unlike RU-486, which it is often confused with. RU-486—the so-called abortion pill—contains a synthetic steroid called mifepristone that interferes with the body’s ability to sustain pregnancy. Plan B inhibits or delays ovulation so there is no fertilized egg to dislodge.

Should schoolchildren be granted the option of seeking contraception free of parental oversight? Leave your rationale and reasons in COMMENTS.

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Allan MacDonell is TakePart’s News + Opinion editor, with a focus on social justice. Email Allan | @Allan_MacDonell