Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Current controversy: NY Schools Offering 'Morning After Pill'

I heard about this on the news, and subsequently read about it in various articles online. The biggest thing I have noticed is the ignorance surrounding it. Media outlets seems to be doing what they always do--pull the most obscure part of the story out and put it in the headline in a way that makes it sound much worse than it is. So, if you are against the program, read this and tell me if you are still against it. If you are for it, read this to gain some more insight in order to better explain to those whose opinions are against it.

First off, let's look at New York's statistics around teen pregnancy. According to the Christian Science Monitor, "More than 7,000 New York City girls ages 15 to 17 get pregnant each year. More than two-thirds of those pregnancies end in abortions." Of the girls that keep their babies, The Washington Post says that 70% drop out of school.
 
If we compare the rate of teen pregnancy in New York to those of other states, we find that New York has a significantly higher number of pregnant girls. In 2005 (the most recent collected data for this particular statistic), out of a group of 1,000 fifteen-to-seventeen year old girls, 55.7 girls got pregnant in New York compared to 40.2 for the rest of the country. In the age group of 18-19, this number is 127.7 compared with 117.7. It may not sound like much of a difference, but it is. And compared with the amount of births that ultimately come of these pregnancies, the number is much lower in New York than the rest of the country. What does this tell us? It tells us that more girls in New York are getting pregnant than other states and that even more of them are getting abortions. In fact, 64% of all teen pregnancies were aborted last year in New York.*

While the difference between New York and the rest of the country is significant as far as pregnancies go, the amount of girls getting emergency contraception is surprisingly low. This means that couples are using their brains along with other parts of their bodies. In fact, nearly 44.2% of all 11th grade teens have had sex, and of those, only 2.9% of them used emergency contraception. About 33.9% of all teens have reported having had sex, and of those, 4% have used the morning after pill. *

What does this say about teens? Now, I am just talking about New York, and not every state is completely comparable. But keep in mind that every state has percentages that are higher than people like to accept. Your teenagers are having sex. Your abstinence programs have not worked, and they will not work. What HAS worked are safe-sex programs. Don't you adults remember what being a teen is like? It was a very short time ago that I myself was one, and I can verify the validity of this--being told not to do something makes us want to do it more. So when you're told that sex is great and it's for when you're older and you shouldn't be doing it right now...why wouldn't you want to go out and do it? Kids need to be told what sex is and how to do it right. Then we need to leave it up to them to figure out. Of course we can advise them and guide them, but we need to stop telling them 'no' and start telling them 'how.' Amy Schalet, assistant professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts and author of, “Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex,” told Washington Post author in an email, "In the US, we’ve tended to focus exclusively on the dangers of sex. Parents, educators and health care providers warn young people against the risks of sex and heartbreak, but unfortunately that does not give them the tools to navigate the territory of sexuality and relationships in a healthy way.” She really couldn't be more accurate in my opinion. So what kinds of tools do we need to be giving them?

"As part of the mandated New York City DOE HIV/AIDS Prevention Program, all high schools are required to have a Health Resource Room (HRR) where free condoms, health information, and health referrals are available to students." --NYC Department of Education.

These HRRs must have one female and one male on staff, so that every student can feel comfortable going into the room for information and supplies. I was not able to find a start year for this Condom Availability Program, but I did find an article about the program in NY dated from September 1997.
This is not new stuff. But what is new is the decreasing rates of teen pregnancy. According to a study out of New York, in the year 2000, there were 779 pregnancies in teens aged 14 and younger. Wow! But as of 2009, there were 551. Though the numbers went down slowly, and there were the same amount in 2002 & 2003, the numbers have decreased every year in that decade. I think this means we're doing something right. And also, "A study of New York City's school condom availability program found a significant increase in condom use among sexually active students but no increase in sexual activity (AdvocatesforYouth.org)." According to the CDC, the U.S. teen birth rate reached a historic percentage in 2010. It decreased nine percent. That is the lowest the rates have been since 1946. With the increase of things like condom availability programs and the morning after pill, it's no surprise that fewer girls are getting pregnant.


If you aren't convinced thus far, let's look at a couple more things about this program, such as the safety of it. Many people are worried about the health effects of the morning after pill. If you are a woman or a man currently having sex, intending to have sex anytime in the future, or have children who will eventually have sex, please check out Plan B's website. From the random fascinating facts on the homepage to the frequently asked questions to coupons and a pharmacy locator, everyone can benefit from their website. For example...

"A woman's chances of becoming pregnant from unprotected sex are approximately 20-25% each menstrual cycle–even if it's her first time."
Click the picture for the coupon :)!

How many girls know that? Well, now you do! Do you also know that Plan B works very similarly to monthly birth control? One of the main ingredients is levonorgestrel, which is a main ingredient in most over the counter monthly birth controls. And it doesn't always work. In fact, seven out of eight girls will not get pregnant who would have gotten pregnant without the pill, which means that one in eight girls will still get pregnant. It is not fail-safe, just like any other form of contraception. It is most effective up to 72 hours after sex, but the sooner you take it, the better. Its effects can be the same as birth control, such as cramping, spotting, an early or late period, nausea, etc.


It is NOT an abortion-inducing pill. It cannot abort an existing pregnancy, nor should it be used like a monthly birth control. It is purely for emergencies (such as a broken condom or forgetting to take a monthly pill). It is a current debate as to how exactly these work, and delaying ovulation is becoming more and more accepted as what it is that they do. I'm not going to get into that, because it's a whole other thing, but if you are wondering as to the discussion as far as what it does, read this article on CBS News. Basically, if used on a need-to basis, it's just as effective and safe as a monthly hormonal birth control. If you have any doubts about it, a pharmacist will explain anything and your doctor will, too (prescriptions are needed for girls under 17).

One last thing I want to bring up, and that's the media portrayal of this situation. The media has been making this out to seem like girls are able to get this pill without permission from their parents, and that it is just being handed out. There is an 'opt-out' program, where parents can opt that their daughter not be allowed access to the pill if they asked for it. About one to two percent of parents have actually opted their child out, according to the city health department. So, you are able to be a parent to your child in that sense. You can check with your child's school to see if they have the program. Also, I haven't seen anything that says that the pill would be given free of charge. I'm pretty sure (and if anyone knows for sure, please tell me!) that the girls would still have to pay. Most girls are not going to throw away their money by doing this all the time, at about $50 per one-time use pill. Not to mention the fact that it is generally embarrassing, especially for young girls, to have to explain to an adult that they need something like this. Also, this program started about four years ago in 40 different schools in New York. This whole program is nothing new, its just that it is now becoming public. Since 2011, thirteen more schools have gained the program that didn't already have a health clinic. According to the Christian Science Monitor, "'In the 2011-12 school year, 576 girls got the pills at the 13 added schools,' said Deborah Kaplan, an assistant health commissioner."


And on a final note that could end up being something I shouldn't have even brought up, research politics if you plan on voting this election. In the September issue of Cosmopolitan, there is a table that shows what each Presidential candidate's views are on women's rights. In a very small nutshell, Obama is pro-choice and Romney is pro-life, and Romney is not a fan of Planned Parenthood. I'm not going to give any personal opinion here. I'm going to say that it is important to know what is at stake if you plan on voting. Research each candidates' views and the programs, health care plans and federal funding they plan to keep and get rid of. And PLEASE educate yourself on what Planned Parenthood really is. It is not an abortion clinic. Sen. John Kyl, R-Arizona, was quoted as saying that 90% of Planned Parenthood's care is abortions. ABCNews reports that, "Planned Parenthood is the nation's largest abortion provider, but it issued a fact sheet today stating that more than 90 percent of its
health care services are preventive, not abortions. The company says no taxpayer funds are used to fund abortions."If you hear something on tv, the radio, from a friend, or read it online, do your own work to figure out the truth behind it and your own opinions.

Overall, this program is extremely effective when used, and it isn't being used as much as you might think. Teen pregnancy rates have gone down, and more and more kids are using protection, thanks to tons of new programs that offer them free condoms, birth control, the morning after pill, and/or just information about sex itself. The morning after pill is safe and effective when used quickly and on an emergency basis. Though it is commonly known as Plan B, most pharmacies do carry a generic morning after pill (just ask your pharmacist if they do, it is usually a few dollars cheaper than name brands). And the biggest study fact that got me was the fact that these programs do not increase sexual activity in teens. Keep your eyes and ears open, folks. Kids are having sex and if you don't want to answer their questions or help them out, they'll just figure it out for themselves.

If you so choose, post your opinions as to whether or not these programs are a good idea! :)

*NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Washington Post
CDC
Christian Science Monitor
NYC Department of Education
NCBI
Advocates for Youth
Plan B
CBS News
FoxNews
Planned Parenthood
ABC News.go