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Morning-After Birth Control Pills Offered to High School Students in NYC – And Your Community Too?

Morning-After Birth Control Pills Offered to High School Students in NYC – And Your Community Too?

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

The New York Post has made quite a splash this week with its scoop on a quietly-launched public health program to offer Plan B, the morning-after birth control pill, along with other reproductive health services to students at 13 schools in New York City in a bid to reduce teen pregnancy.  

Notice that I didn't say "controversial" program.

That's because it didn't seem to be — at least until the Post noticed the program and reported on it with this incendiary, not-exactly-accurate headline: "NYC schools give out morning-after pills to students — without telling parents." The program actually started in January 2011, targeting schools in city neighborhoods with high teen pregnancy rates.

In fact, the schools did send a letter home to parents informing of the program and giving them the choice to opt out, which would prevent their children from receiving pregnancy tests or birth control. Between one and two percent of parents did so, the Post reported, as did the New York Times, which had to credit the Post for the scoop. New York City schools, as well as many others nationwide, have already made condoms available to students.

The Post also breathlessly reported that the New York City program, known as Connecting Adolescents To Comprehensive Health, or CATCH, "might be a nationwide first as well. The National Association of School Nurses could cite no other school district supplying Plan B."

Not exactly a first. A bit of Google digging revealed that the Elsie Allen High School health clinic in Santa Rosa, Calif., offered Plan B among other birth control options to students starting in the mid-2000s.

Other school boards may have considered but rejected the idea, including this one in Oregon.

There are many so great issues to explore in covering teen pregnancy prevention. Why aren't more schools considering offering birth control to students?  Does handing out birth control to kids in middle or high school settings actually reduce pregnancy rates, or are other teen pregnancy prevention programs more effective? What are the costs? What do parents – and students themselves – think?

Unfortunately, you wouldn't get any of that context from the Post's hyperventilating "exclusive." That's a shame, because there's been surprisingly little mainstream media coverage of whether or how student health clinics might offer birth control (beyond condoms) or other reproductive health services. Even as school-based health services overall are declining nationwide because of budget cuts, so much of the previous coverage has focused on abstinence-based sex education, which has been shown to be laughably ineffective.

What's happening in your own community? Share your thoughts or stories in the comments below.

Related Content:

Plan B: Is Emergency Contraception Really Available in Your Community?

The Plan B Contraceptive Decision: Analysis, Outrage, Applause

Hispanic Teen Pregnancy: Proof that Health Disparities Impact Lives

Teen births: Solutions embrace cultural nuances

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