Friday, September 28, 2012

Religious Right Frowns on Emergency Contraception in NYC Schools

Another effort to make emergency contraception available has come under fire from the Religious Right. NBC News reports that the New York Health Department launched a program called Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Healthcare (CATCH) in January 2011. CATCH allows a school nurse or doctor to provide emergency contraception pills, birth control pills, and pregnancy testing to female students at 13 public high schools. The schools were selected because of their location in areas with high teenage pregnancy rates or limited access to contraceptives. Emergency contraception has been available to students at most New York schools with school-based health centers, but CATCH makes it available in schools without such centers.

The New York Times reports that parents of high school students received a form to opt out of reproductive services under the CATCH program, which only 1-2% of parents returned. However, the New York Times states that Greg Pfundstein, executive director of the Chiaroscuro Foundation, questions whether parents gave fully informed consent. Of course, given the Chiaroscuro Foundation's opinions on contraception, this disapproval of CATCH is not surprising. The foundation's website has this to say.
"Over the past several decades, the widespread availability of low cost artificial contraception and abortion have given people in the developed world the ability to disentangle sex and procreation. This power to separate sex from life has led to a generalized devaluation of human life, the legal justification of the killing of the innocent unborn, the moral equivalence of all sexual acts, and the gradual death of some Western cultures through low fertility rates."
Other right-wing voices have criticized the CATCH program. For example, NBC News quotes National Abstinence Education Association president Valerie Huber claimed that the service allegedly "normalizes teen sex", fails to prevent STDs, and neglects abstinence.

In a blog post at the Archdiocese of New York website, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio accused the CATCH program of usurping the role of parents as educators of children. They insisted that abstinence, rather than increased access to contraception, will prevent unintended pregnancy and disease transmission.

One News Now reports that Jason McGuire of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms was alarmed over the "spiritual concerns" and "emotional concerns" of the matter. McGuire claimed that the program sends a message that "safe sex" is okay. He suspected that many New York parents did not receive an opt-out notice.

Finally, the NYC Parents' Choice Coalition, an organization that opposes New York City's current comprehensive sex education in favor of abstinence-only sex education, posted an open letter to Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott condemning the CATCH pilot program. The letter accuses the New York Department of Education of using "deceptive means" to disconnect parents from "potentially life-altering health care decisions" involving their children. Signatories warn that increased access to emergency contraception will supposedly change teens' sexual behavior and put them at greater risk for unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. The letter advocates for an affirmative opt-in option for parents instead of the current opt-out option. Signatories include New York state senator Reuben Dias, Edward Mechmann of the Archdiocese of New York, and several members of the Chiaroscuro Foundation. 

By increasing access to emergency contraception, New York City schools have given young women another tool for preventing unwanted pregnancy. Unfortunately, this access to emergency contraception has also drawn the ire of right-wing voices, meaning that reproductive rights supporters in New York may have a struggle ahead of them.


  1. Oh brother. The fact that they represent roughly 1% of NYC parents means nothing to these people. In fact it's a badge of honor for them to be standing for "righteousness" in a "wicked" world.

    1. Donna -- That's usually the case, amusingly. It will be interesting to see how this fight progresses, especially if a lot of parents disagree with the Religious Right voices.


All comments are subject to moderation. Threatening, violent, or bigoted comments will not be published.