Morning after pill given to 'hundreds' of students in New York high schools
Hundreds of students in New York City high schools have been given morning after pills by their school nurses since a scheme was launched in a bid to cut teen pregnancies.
The programme is active in 13 schools in the city, and health officials say New York is the first place to make hormonal contraceptives available at school.
Under the scheme, school nurses can dish out the emergency contraceptive pills to girls who have had unprotected sex, but can also hand out condoms, birth control pills, and carry out pregnancy tests.
"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, told Reuters.
"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."
Parents are said to have been 'largely' supportive of the programme, but were given the option to opt their children out of any or all of the services. Alexandra Waldhorn said between only one and two per cent of parents had returned an opt out form.
Joan Malin, president of Planned Parenthood of New York City told Reuters that it was not always the case that teenagers would speak to their parents or carers before entering into a sexual relationship and that the programme 'equips school nurses and other qualified staff to be those responsible adults providing appropriate advice and medical care.'
Critics of the scheme said that parents were not making informed decisions and that the iniative should be run on an opt-in rather than opt-out basis, so mums and dads had to actually give consent for their children to be given birth control or the morning after pill.
Greg Pfundstein, the executive director of the Chiaroscuro Foundation, an anti-abortion group in New York, said the health department had not done enough to show that the programme would reduce teenage pregnancies.
Meanwhile, New York State Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, a Democrat who represents parts of the South Bronx, asked Mayor Michael Bloomberg to put an immediate stop to the scheme.
He wrote to Mayor Bloomberg saying 'It is unconscionable for New York City's government to implement any program that gives medication to students without the prior authorization of parents.'
Figures reveal that in the past school year, 567 students received emergency contraception and 580 students received Reclipsen, a birth-control pill, through the scheme.
What do you think? How would you feel about this scheme being run in the UK?