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In case you haven’t heard (after the uproar stirred by the Post this past week), a handful of New York City public schools have been testing out a program that dispenses oral and, more recently, injectable contraceptives, as well as the morning after pill or Plan B, to female students in need. Dubbed “CATCH” or Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Healthcare, the pilot program launched in January of 2011 and managed to fly under the radar. Since then, CATCH has been quietly at work in 14 schools and has dispensed care to approximately 1,000 students. Statistics say that about half of those 1,000 received the birth control pill Reclipsen and half were given emergency contraception.

The effort primarily targets young women from poorer backgrounds who are at a high risk of unwanted pregnancy early in life, which often puts an end to education and opportunities for young women across the nation. It has caused some parents to worry about whether the school has gotten too involved in their children’s health while sidestepping parental consent. Letters were sent to parents of the schools involved at the start of the program, and they were given an option to decline for their children. Surprisingly, of the schools in which the program is offered, less than 2% of the parents have chosen to opt their child out of the services.

Though issues such as confidentiality of patients, potential health risks, and parental rights to their child’s health records are all being raised, unwanted teenage pregnancy is a real and devastating problem. Many young women who “shouldn’t be having sex” may already be sexually active. Why not equip them at the place in which they are spending time educating themselves in other aspects of their lives and give them the resources and tools to have healthy sexual relationships? If boys can get condoms from the school nurse and pharmacy without a letter being sent home to mom and dad, why shouldn’t girls make their own decisions about their health?

The truth is, kids are having sex and many of them are doing so whether or not their parents know or care. While some families prefer to handle sex education at home, giving these young women responsibility over their health when they are already having sexual relationships can help prevent more unwanted pregnancies. If girls are sexually active despite the added benefit of comprehensive healthcare and parental guidance, giving them the opportunity to be safe and make well-informed decisions may be more important than parental unease.  

Image via steadyhealth.com.