CATCH — Connecting Adolescents To Comprehensive Health — is an unpublicized pilot program that delivers morning-after pills and other birth-control to students at 13 New York City high schools. Prescriptions for contraceptives are written by Health Department physicians, and school nurses distribute emergency contraception, as well as other oral and injectable birth control to adolescent girls without notifying their parents, unless their parents signed and returned an opt-out form after getting an informational letter from the school.
According to the New York City Department of Health, 7,000 girls under age 17 became pregnant last year. Of those, 64% had abortions. Of the 2,200 girls who became mothers before the age of 17, around 70% dropped out of school.
Reactions to the program have been mixed. One school staffer said, ““We can’t give out a Tylenol without a doctor’ s order. Why should we give out hormonal preparations with far more serious possible side effects, such as blood clots and hypertension?”