Free Plan B in NYC Schools: Why We Might Have to Give Students a Plan C

Is providing Plan B to students the correct choice, or should we provide a “Plan C?”

Abortions, abstinence-only vs. comprehensive sex education, condoms, teenage pregnancy, Plan B, the pill — all buzzwords in the recent debate when New York City public schools announced that for about a year, they had been offering Plan B to students.

With 7,000 girls under the age of 17 becoming pregnant in the last year (and 90% of these unplanned pregnancies), health officials sought to provide even more preventative measures to address unplanned teenage pregnancy. New York schools have provided free condoms to students in the past, but wanted to take more of a proactive stance. Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Health (CATCH) decided to provide 13 public schools with Plan B, a pill to reduce pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. CATCH also distributed birth control to teenagers. Students may receive these contraceptives without parental consent and are protected by confidentiality.

When CATCH was publicly addressed in media outlets, the program raised concerns from parents and health officials alike. The Daily Beast reports that officials involved in the program sent letters to parents and provided an opt-out option so students would not have to participate in the program. CATCH also provides counseling, a school nurse and social workers.

One can argue that parents should have the right to be involved in their children’s sexual education; others might assert that it’s the government’s responsibility to curb teenage pregnancy. One could also observe that increased availability to emergency contraception may lead to risky sexual behaviors, as one study performed by the Nottingham University Business School has shown. Even though teenage pregnancies have declined in New York City by 20% over the last ten years, it is still a problem.

The real, clear issue is that New York City health officials saw a problem and decided to address it.

While it may not be the best approach from a parent’s perspective, public schools acknowledge that students are going to continue to have sex whether or not their parents approve of it. It seems to be more important to provide students with options rather than ignore the issue. Most everybody knows that if you tell a teenager not to have sex with somebody, they are more likely to do it. At least New York is taking preventative measures, unlike some states that still teach abstinence only sex education, especially since such states tend to have the highest rates of teenage pregnancy.

Parental concerns aside, only time will tell as to whether or not CATCH programs prevent teenage pregnancy.