The New York City Health Department is promoting a new smartphone app, "Teens in NYC – Protection," created to battle teen pregnancy. One video featured in the mobile app addresses bisexuality and birth control.
The department claims that it is responsible for declining teen pregnancy in recent years and hopes that the new app will help continue this trend. The New York City Health Department recently announced that its efforts over the last decade have led to a 5 percent decline in teen pregnancies in one year, hitting a new low by falling 30 percent over the last decade. The new app was created to provide teens with more accessible information to locate free, confidential reproductive health services.
Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said in a press statement that, "Not having sex is the surest way to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. But for teens who are having sex, it is important to use birth control and condoms to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. The Teens in NYC mobile app provides information in ways that are familiar to teens so they can [get] access to these services."
The app is available on the Apple and Android platforms and features three main sections:
- Where To Go – users can search for providers by address, borough, or nearest location
- What To Get – brief descriptions of birth control methods are listed
- What To Expect – three short videos about teens accessing birth control and other sexual health services that show the importance of dual protection (condoms and another forms of birth control) to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
The 60 health care providers listed will provide services to teens regardless of their ability to pay or their immigration status. These health care providers listed in the app also follow the Best Practices in Sexual and Reproductive Health Care for Adolescents, a set of guidelines developed as part of the Mayor's Young Men's Initiative, which was launched in 2011 and is designed to address disparities between young black and Latino men and their peers, including health disparities.
One video featured in the app tells a story about accessing birth control from a bisexual perspective. A character, "Samantha," discusses how she could have feelings for her female friend, "Alisha," even though she has a boyfriend, "Richie." She says, "I like sex with Richie but sometimes I can't stop thinking about how beautiful Alisha is … or how much I want to kiss her, or go even further. So I guess I like girls, too."
In the video, Samantha gets advice from a guidance counselor who directs her to a free health clinic. At the clinic Samantha is given condoms and a prescription for birth control and told that her feelings for both men and women are "normal."
Both the new NYC Health Department and the teen pregnancy app have faced criticism. The Chiaroscuro Foundation, which supports the efforts of www.nyc41percent.com, says the methodology the city is using to battle teen pregnancy is flawed primarily for two reasons. First, the preventative programs the city has implemented have only been in effect for two years and the latest data to which the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene refers covers a time period that ended in 2009. "Their claims are spurious because the timeframe of the City's interventions doesn't correspond to the period of the decline in teen pregnancy," Chiaroscuro Foundation President Greg Pfundstein told The Christian Post. "Furthermore, and more curious, the Department of Health told us in meetings we had about their distribution of Plan B pills in schools that they are making no effort to track the programs' effect on teen pregnancy."
Pfundstein added, "This app is yet another pathway the City is building for teens to access contraception and abortion without the involvement of their parents. Parents have every right to be concerned about an unproven program that dispenses pharmaceuticals to thousands of New York City children without their parent's knowledge or consent."
Pfundstein points out that not one state in America "requires parental consent or notification before a minor receives prescription drugs used for 'reproductive health' – contraceptive drugs and devices, treatments for sexually transmitted diseases, or any related testing," but a school nurse could not dispense aspirin to a minor without a parent's consent if that child has a headache (often accompanied with vomiting) after receiving a dose of Plan B, given to that child without parental consent.
New York State's Right to Life Committee Chairwoman Barbara Meara agrees the numbers are skewed and adds that, "providing children with 'preventative care' information like this is troubling because it is not fair to those who do not want to be sexually active. The app doesn't emphasize the value of abstinence, which is problematic."
The NYC Department of Health did not respond to a request for comments by press time.