| NEW YORK, Sept 24
NEW YORK, Sept 24 Hundreds of New York City high
schools students have received morning-after pills since the
launch of a program that provides emergency contraception
through public school nurses, the city's health department said
Many schools around the nation have long made condoms
available to students, but New York health officials said they
believe the city is the first to make hormonal contraceptives
The program, launched in 13 high schools last year, gives
students access to emergency contraceptive pills, designed to
prevent pregnancy following unprotected sex or a contraceptive
failure if taken within 72 hours, as well as condoms, birth-
control pills and pregnancy testing.
The program is designed to battle the problem of unplanned
pregnancies among teens, health officials said.
"In New York City over 7,000 young women become pregnant by
age 17, 90 percent of which are unplanned," Alexandra Waldhorn,
a health department spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.
"We are committed to trying new approaches, like this pilot
program in place since January 2011, to improve a situation that
can have lifelong consequences," she said.
Parents were informed of the program from the start and
given the choice of opting out of any or all of the services but
have largely supported the program, Waldhorn said.
Between 1 and 2 percent of parents sent back an opt-out
form, she said.
Although the program has been in place since early last
year, it was thrust into the public spotlight over the weekend
when it was first reported by the New York Post.
The program - known as CATCH for Connecting Adolescents to
Comprehensive Healthcare - is an extension of services that
already were available to about a quarter of all New York public
school students through privately run health clinics.
The 13 public schools were chosen because such facilities
were not available nearby.
In the last school year, 567 students received emergency
contraception and 580 students received Reclipsen, a
birth-control pill, through the program.
Some anti-abortion advocates object to the morning-after
drugs, which work by preventing the release of an egg,
preventing fertilization or stopping a fertilized egg from
attaching to the uterus.
The National Association of School Nurses, contacted by the
Post, said it too did not know of any similar program in the
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Philip Barbara)