Target: New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Goal: Commend organization for distributing contraceptives in schools to guarantee teenagers’ reproductive freedom
In 2011, a program called Connecting Adolescents To Comprehensive Health (CATCH), allowed clinics in five high schools to distribute Plan B One-Step, an emergency contraceptive, to students. The program has since expanded to more than 50 schools. With the Obama administration’s recent decision to allow Plan B to become available to all ages without a prescription, this trend will continue to grow. In this petition, we acknowledge NYC as a leader in expanding access to contraceptives and Plan B in schools.
According to the NYC Board of Health, 7,000 girls under age 17 become pregnant each year with 90 percent of these being unplanned. A survey by the School-Based Health Alliance has shown that “half of all school-based health clinics in the U.S. are prohibited from handing out any contraception, including condoms.” This startling statistic reveals a counterproductive approach to sex education that ignores the problem at hand, instead of providing students with realistic tools and options to promote safe sex.
In conjunction with city health department doctors and trained school nurses, CATCH provides students with free and confidential contraceptive services including pregnancy tests, birth control pills, and morning-after pills. It targets schools with high rates of pregnancy among students, especially in poor neighborhoods lacking access to health centers. Parents are informed of the program and are given the opportunity to opt-out from allowing their child to receive Plan B, though only around three percent of parents choose this option. A report released by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found the program to be a contributing factor in New York’s declining teen pregnancy rates.
Deborah Kaplan, an assistant commissioner for reproductive health explained the availability of Plan B in schools as part of a new, comprehensive sex education campaign. Thanks to this initiative, teens who may not be receiving support or guidance about their sex lives from family members now have equal access to safe and convenient contraception.
Dear NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene,
We applaud your efforts to expand access to Plan B, the most popular emergency contraceptive, in over 50 NYC high schools. Over the last few years, CATCH has provided free and confidential contraceptive services such as birth control and morning-after pills to thousands of students. This highly beneficial program has contributed to the city’s decreasing teen pregnancy rates.
By providing students with information and tools to prevent unwanted pregnancies, this program promotes safe sex in a truly practical and accessible way that prior sex education programs have failed to accomplish. The success of this program is a victory for women’s reproductive health and freedom, providing an important model for school districts across the nation.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: waltarrrrr via Flickr