In an effort to cut down on the number of unplanned pregnancies, The Department of Education distributes morning after pills to select New York City high school students. The year old program, CATCH – Connecting Adolescents To Comprehensive Health, is an initiative on behalf of The Department of Education to decrease the number of young girls who dropout of high school due to unplanned pregnancies.
During a recent interview with The New York Post, health department spokeswoman, Alexandra Waldhorn said, ”[I]n New York City over 7,000 young women become pregnant by age 17, 90 percent of which are unplanned”.
Before implementing CATCH, letters were sent to parents allowing guardians the option to prohibit children from receiving contraceptives. Students who are not opted-out of the program are able to access emergency contraception pills and other methods of birth control through school nurses without permission. According to Waldhorn, “an average of 1 to 2 percent of parents from each school have returned opt-out sheets”.
When asked about the new found freedom, students responded in a variety of ways. Some young girls like 14-year-old Fashion Industries student appreciate knowing there are alternatives, “I would go to the nurse without telling my parents, and I would ask for help”.
While some students are open to the idea of utilizing the contraceptives, others oppose of the idea entirely. Sophomore Annette Palacious states, “girls shouldn’t be sexually active at that age”.
Though the verdict is still out as to whether CATCH is a program that should be implemented nationwide, statistics collected may serve as a sense of reality for those on the fence about the controversial issue. The Department of Health revealed “during an unpublicized pilot program in five city schools last year, 567 students received Plan B tablets and 580 students received Reclipsen birth-control pills”.