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The Department of Education has approved a program that provides morning-after pills or Plan B contraception to students at 13 New York City high schools, reports the New York Post.

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The Plan B contraception program, Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Health (CATCH), was created to combat the epidemic problem of teen pregnancy throughout the city, which often results in girls dropping out of school.

The practice of dispensing free condoms to New York City high schoolers who are sexually active has already been in place for quite some time now.  But the city’s plan to provide youths with the hormonal contraceptive Plan B method, which can prevent pregnancy if ingested up to 72 hours after having unprotected sex, could very well be the nation’s first education institution-backed plan.

Students will also be able to receive the birth control Depo-Provera this fall, which is a contraception that is injected every three months. Even though oral and injection-based contraceptives require prescriptions, the prescriptions are written by health department doctors for the students.

In the case of the CATCH program,  students can tell their school’s health practitioner that they had unprotected sex, a pregnancy test will follow to determine conception, and then a prescription will be issued to that student.

Even though Plan B is available as an over-the-counter drug, children under age 18 do require a prescription.

CATCH was expanded citywide to 14 schools with a student population of more than 22,000 children, but school officials at one high school bowed out of the program.

If they sign a statement, parents can decide to not have their child participate in the contraception program and from receiving any pregnancy tests; however, if a parent does not sign and return the CATCH opt-out statement, school officials can provide their child with contraception and pregnancy testing without informing them.

Thus far, an average of 1 to 2 percent of parents at each school have actually signed and returned the opt-out forms. According to city data, about 28 percent of New York City students who are entering the ninth grade have already engaged in sexual relations and more than half are sexually active before graduating high school.

The New York Department of Health also says that last year, 7,000 girls under the age of 17 wound up pregnant with 90 percent of those unplanned. A whopping 64 percent of pregnancies got aborted while 2,200 girls became Mothers by the time they reached 17.  Sadly, 70 percent of these Moms dropped out of high school.

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