The Plan B morning-after-pill and other birth control options will be offered to students beginning at age 14 at a select number of New York High Schools. According to the New York Department of Education, girls as young as 14 will be able to get the Plan B emergency contraception without parental consent. The program called CATCH, Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Healthcare has run health centers in a number of schools across the country. I am concerned about all of this but I am more concerned about the morning-after-pill. The Plan B contraceptive can prevent pregnancy if taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. The parents were sent letters telling them about the option and they could sign a form to indicate that they didn't want their child to receive the contraceptive. What system is in place to insure that the parents actually received the letter? According the NY Post, one parent states that she never received the letter to opt out of her child receiving contraception. Every parent should be required to send a form back to school regarding their stance on allowing birth control for their child. This is too important an issue not to be completely thorough! A student can't go on a field trip or participate in sports without the parent signing a consent form, but for contraception the parents need to opt out! If the parents don't opt out, the school can administer the contraception without the parents consent or knowledge.
So, if a parent does not receive this letter, their child can receive the Plan B pill and they would have no knowledge of it. What if a student gets the Plan B pill and has side effects? Here is information from Plan B's website:
A woman only has a few days to prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse or contraceptive failure. Plan B® One-Step should be taken as soon as possible within 72 hours (3 days) of unprotected intercourse or contraceptive failure.
A woman may experience menstrual changes after taking Plan B® One-Step. Her period may be heavier or lighter, earlier or later. If her period is more than one week late, she may be pregnant.
A woman may experience nausea when taking Plan B® One-Step. In the event that a patient vomits within two hours of taking a Plan B® One-Step tablet, consideration should be given to repeating the dose.
Plan B® One-Step does not protect against HIV infection (the virus that causes AIDS) and any other sexually transmitted disease (STD).
If a woman experiences severe abdominal pain after taking Plan B® One-Step, she may have an ectopic pregnancy and should seek immediate medical attention.
A teenager is responsible for understanding these possible outcomes and dealing with them without their parents! These side effects are stated for WOMEN, not children! What if the child experiences vomiting on Friday and needs a repeating dose? Is Monday going to be too late to receive the repeating dose? Is the school going to take responsibility if their is an ectopic pregnancy and the child becomes gravely ill because the parents think that the child has a stomach ache and doesn't take the child to the doctor right away?
According to the New York Times, there are private programs that offer the morning-after-pill without parent's consent. Even if a parent opted out of the program at school, the child could still go to a clinic or other school based health center for contraception. Parents have the right to know if their child is pregnant! If parents are going to be held responsible for their children until the age of 18, then they need to have the power to help them make informed decisions about their safety and well-being. No child should be able to hide a pregnancy from their parent!
Only about 1% to 2% of parents opt out of the CATCH program. This is another form of outsourcing parenting. Parents can opt out of having a conversation with their children about birth control with this program. Why is this number so low? Is it because they don't care that their children are sexually active? Is it because they are uncomfortable talking to their child about sex? Is it because they never received the opt out form? Parents need to know if their children are sexually active. Parents should be educating their own children about safe sex and birth control. If parents would stop passing the buck, these programs would not be necessary.