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NYC schools supply students Plan B and more without parental notification
New York City’s Department of Education has been providing birth control (such as the long-lasting shot Depo-Provera), Plan B/emergency contraception, and “all pregnancy options” to thousands of high school students in grades 9-12, without parental consent or notification through the Connecting Adolescents To Comprehensive Health (CATCH) program.
The CATCH program was launched in 2011 during an unpublicized pilot in thirteen city schools. During that year the New York Post reported, in just five schools, 567 students received Plan B tablets and 580 students received Reclipsen birth-control pills according to NYC’s Department of Health. The schools also provide condoms and pregnancy testing. But the city failed to mention the almost 40 separate “school-based health centers” which gave out 12,721 doses of Plan B in 2011-12, up from 10,720 in 2010-11 and 5,039 in 2009-10.
The Post obtained the report under a Freedom of Information Law request.
“Besides “emergency contraception,” about 40 school-based clinics have dispensed prescriptions for birth-control pills, intrauterine devices (IUDs), hormone-delivering injections, and Patch and NuvaRing — covering a total 93,569 monthly cycles through June 2012, the report says. Handouts of birth-control packets rose from 6,027 in 2009-10 to 10,462 last year. Depo-Provera injections rose from 1,213 to 2,117. Staffers also insert plastic IUDs in the uterus, where they can remain for years.”
Of course, officials refused to discuss the project.
During the pilot phase, The Chiaroscuro Foundation released poll data showing 53 percent of New York City parents opposed the controversial program.
We reached out to New York’s Department of Health to see how many students received birth control, the morning-after pill, and two different medications referred to as the “abortion pill”: mifepristone and misoprostol. We have yet to receive a response, but if the numbers from the pilot remained consistent we are looking at well over 15,000 students receiving Plan B, and over 16,000 receiving birth control pills without parental notification. Despite other data showing a majority of parents opposed the program, health officials say only one to two percent of parents in those schools chose to opt out of the program.
In 2020, According to Stuyvesant High School, additional services are being offered: “CATCH program returns to Stuyvesant with added services.” What else could possibly be offered other than the abortion pill or performing the abortion pill? We decided to investigate by using the QR code from a flyer at Forest Hills High School in Queens. Scanning the code led us to a text message with presumably, the program director.
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Pretending to be a pregnant student, I told the person who runs the program that I wanted to “get rid of it” before my parents found out. I asked her if the program was confidential and she assured me it was.
Not being a student limited additional information. However, it begs the question, what would the school have advised? Assuming they would have administered a pregnancy test, if positive would they have scheduled the student for an abortion? Would they have given her an abortion pill? Would they even encourage her to talk about the pregnancy with her parents?
According to the extremely limited information available online, parents have the option to opt-out their children from the CATCH program but it’s not clear if parents are even aware this program exists. You can find limited information about the program on the Department of Education’s website and there is no mention of it on the city’s Department of Health website.
We reached out to the NYC Department of Education CATCH Program Director, Pamela Haller to see what materials were sent to parents, and when, that outline the services offered. We still have not received a response.
Teen pregnancy is a major concern for parents and society. However, simply throwing potent medication with the risk of serious side effects at 14-year-old girls is not without consequence. There is more to sex education than birth control and abortion. Taking parents out of the equation is not only irresponsible, but it's also dangerous. The path to responsible adulthood begins at home. Parents, not elected officials or school administrations, have their children's best interests at heart.