- (Photo: www.planbonestep.com)
The New York City Department of Education has decided to make the morning after pill available to high school teenage girls at 13 public schools, expanding a program begun last year.
According to the program, the schools can provide Plan B emergency contraception without parental consent to girls as young as 14.
A letter will be sent out to the parents of students enrolled in the 13 schools about the new policy. The parents have the option of having their child opt out of the program.
The program comes as a way of reducing teenage pregnancy. Although New York City schools already provide free condoms to students, city officials say that last year about 7,000 girls became pregnant by age 17.
In an interview with local media, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn explained that she believes the pilot program will successfully curb the teen pregnancy rate.
"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," said Quinn to WCBS 880.
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, told The Christian Post that the decision by the NYC DOE is "the kind of imperial edict that demands a lawsuit."
"Whenever it comes to sensitive issues such as sexuality, the government must always play an ancillary role to that of parents," said Donohue. "The provision that parents can opt out smacks of governmental arrogance and must be resisted: the government has no business eclipsing parental rights."
Known as the Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Health (CATCH) program, it was initially implemented last year in five schools. ABC News referred to it as being "perhaps the first of its kind in the country."
According to the NYC Board of Health, last year when implemented in five schools approximately 4.7 percent of the 12,000 teenage girls enrolled at those schools were given the prescription drug; only 1 to 2 percent of parents had chosen to opt out of the program.
"Overall, this suggests that parents are OK with the service being available to their children," said Chanel Caraway, spokeswoman for the NYC health department, to ABC News.
Caraway also told ABC News that they hope to gradually expand the CATCH program to include the entirety of New York City.