Plan B in schools sends bad message

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New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city’s Department of Education implemented the program Connecting Adolescents To Comprehensive Healthcare (CATCH) last year to prevent teenage pregnancy in students of city schools.

This pilot program for sexual education and contraceptives has been in place for almost two years, but it recently gained the spotlight for its expansion from five to 13 schools, and for teens’ increased access to the morning-after pill, also known as Plan B.

New York City’s plan to reduce teen pregnancy by increasing sexual education and availability of various contraceptives is a step in the right direction. The U.S. has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates when compared to equally developed countries.

But allowing Plan B to be easily accessible will perpetuate the idea that unprotected sex is okay.

Plan B is not a substitute for traditional contraception, such as condoms or the pill; it is supposed to be true to its name: A “plan B” for if your plan A fails. Making Plan B so accessible will make it too easy for teens to count on Plan B in a way they shouldn’t.

An increase in unprotected sex will result in an increase in pregnancies, because while Plan B is effective, it is not as effective as traditional contraceptives. Unprotected sex also results in a higher chance of contracting STIs.

If Plan B is to be available, students should learn its risks and dangers of overuse. However, Plan B is better than no plan at all, so schools should have information for students on how to access it, especially for victims of sexual assault.

Those behind CATCH also hoped that the plan would result in an increase in communication between parents and their teens about sex.

But making contraception available at student health centers means that teens don’t need to communicate with their parents at all — they just need to speak to the school nurse. In this way, schools are going over the parents’ heads.

While the schools asked parents for their consent, some didn’t feel comfortable or sure of their opinions; these and other parents simply didn’t answer. Many never received any kind of notification about the program.

There are parts of New York City’s plan that do make sense, though. Condoms should be available to students, as should sexual education.

Sex is a part of life for many teens; pregnancy shouldn’t be. And since teens are inevitably going to be making choices about sex, they should be educated on the potential consequences of their actions and how to take precautions to avoid them.

Plan B is an effective form of birth control as a second or third option, but should remain behind the counter in a pharmacy, not with the school nurse.