October 26, 2012
When Emergency Contraception is Ill-conceived
I went to a meeting this week at New York City’s Department of Education. All parents and guardians, no matter where they live, should know about it.
I was there with some people from NYC Parents’ Choice Coalition to ask questions about a program in which emergency contraception(EC) is dispensed without parental consent. The point of the meeting was not to debate, but to gather information.
Thirteen high schools in New York City give out EC, also called Plan-B, and the morning-after pill. If taken within three days after intercourse, EC decreases the chance of pregnancy by interfering with ovulation, fertilization, or implantation.
A girl over 17 can buy EC over the counter; younger girls need a prescription.
We gathered lots of facts about the program. Right now, I want to focus on these:
- Girls in grades 9-12 get EC from the school nurse.
- The girl doesn’t need to disclose anything about her sexual relationship, if she’s not comfortable doing so.
- It is up to the student whether or not to tell her parents.
- Every student can get EC, unless her parents opt out by returning a form that’s sent home in the mail and with the student.
- The goal of the program is to decrease teen pregnancy, but that can’t be measured. So the program’s success is measured by the number of girls who use it.
There’s a lot here that’s troubling, don’t you think? I’ll be blogging more about this, but for starters:
- Sexual activity, pregnancy, and contraception are serious health matters. Parents, not schools, are responsible for decisions related to the welfare of their minor child. Schools undermine parental authority when they are complicit with a student’s wishes to hide important health issues from her parents.
- It cannot be assumed that EC decreases teen pregnancy. In fact, some studies indicate it may increase it, along with STDs, by increasing sexual activity.
It’s not difficult to imagine how that could happen:
She: No, I don’t want to… I could get pregnant.
He: No you won’t. We have school tomorrow, and you can get one of those pills after history class.
- The success of the program is measured by how many students use it. But the more sex students have, the more girls will need EC. This just isn’t sound thinking.
- It is highly likely that many parents never hear about the program. The girl who is most likely to need EC is also the girl who is most likely to not deliver the letter.
- A common side effect of EC is headache. But girls who return to the nurse for Tylenol can’t get it without parental consent!
A majority of New Yorkers think schools should not be dispensing EC (see results of poll here: nycparentschoice.org). As a physician and parent, I stand with them. I believe this program is flawed, and if you’ll pardon the pun, ill-conceived.
Parents, you may not be aware that a similar program is in the works for your daughter’s school. I encourage you to find out. Stay tuned for more blogging on this issue.