The New York City Department of Health is expanding the accessibility of birth control to 13 more public schools with no age barriers.
The Department of Education’s Connecting Adolescents to Contraceptive Health program specializes in reducing teen pregnancy. This part of the CATCH program’s initiative, which was passed last year.
“In New York City, over 7,000 young women become pregnant by age 17, 90 percent of which are unplanned,” Alexandra Waldhorn, a health department spokesperson, told The New York Times earlier this week. “We are committed to trying new approaches … to improve a situation that can have lifelong consequences.”
According to a study issued by the District Health Office, the last decade has seen close to a 25 percent decline in teen pregnancy rates throughout the city, including those that hold some of the highest pregnancy statistics in America like the South Bronx. In an effort to provide prevention options in urban areas with limited outlets for contraception, the plan was first implemented at the High School of Fashion Industries in Manhattan and Port Richmond High School on Staten Island.
To prevent pregnancy, Plan B, also referred to as the morning-after pill, must be taken within 72 hours after having unprotected sex or birth control failure. The pill is available over-the-counter to those 17 years old and older, but students under 17 can now obtain the pill if they have a prescription from their doctor or school nurse.
Parents who are uncomfortable with the program can exempt their students at the beginning of the school year. According to the city’s Board of Health, only one to two percent of parents have pursued this option.
“The pills … [are] quite effective,” said Sandro Galea, chair of edpiemiology at Columbia University. “The side effects are relatively minor and there is no evidence that there are increased risks for women of a younger age.”
“I think this is so self-evidently a good idea that while there may undoubtedly be some backlash from more conservative elements of society, by and large this is the right way to go,” he added.
Hunter College professor Heidi Jones said it is difficult to predict how the decision will impact New York State as a whole or the rest of the country.
“New York City has been at the forefront of having a huge lead in making sure adolescent sexuality isn’t a neglected issue,” Jones said. “Mayor Bloomberg has shown in general to be quite supportive of increased reproductive health services. But given the current political climate, it is surprising at large.”
In addition to Plan B, students will have access to Depo Provera, a progesterone-only birth control shot that is injected into the arm over a period of three months.
But Alessia Cipriano, a senior in Brooklyn’s New Utrecht High School, worries about the plan backfiring.
“I think this actually might encourage teens to engage in sexual activity because they have been given a pill to keep them from suffering one of the many consequences of sex, [which is] becoming pregnant,” she said.
In order to combat that, Gallatin sophomore Serena Adlerstein emphasizes the importance of educating students about pill.
“As long as there is an education side that teaches kids that Plan B is not a substitute for normal contraceptive, then I think it’s a fine idea,” Adlerstein said. “Kids will have sex [but] they should be safe.”
Siddhi Sundar is a contributing writer. Contributing reporting by Tony Chau. Tony is city state editor. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New York federal judge Korman’s decision to lift restrictions on Plan B is a big step forward for women’s health, but the real issue at large is that the Secretary of Health and Human Services can make scientifically unfounded decisions regarding over-the-counter medication.Read More »
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