The headlines say it all. Concerned Women for America’s article announces, “New York City Schools: Reading, Writing, and Morning-After Pills.” The Family Research Council denounces “New York’s Deadliest CATCH.”
Sifting through the arguments from these prominent conservative organizations will give us some insight into what religious conservatives dislike about New York City’s Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Health (CATCH) program. As the CWA headline suggests, the program expands the district’s free-condom program to include birth control pills and “morning-after” pills. As ILYBYGTH has reported, the NY Board of Health has insisted that a very low rate of parent opt-out suggests that most parents find the program inoffensive.
Fundamentalists beg to differ.
Both CWA and FRC point out the absurdity of a school system in which parents must provide copious paperwork in order for schools to provide basic medicine for schoolchildren, yet those same schools will administer Plan B pills without parental notification. As the FRC briefing notes, “The same nurse’s office that demands a parents’ note for aspirin will be in the position to administer high (and potentially dangerous) doses of hormones to children as young as 14 without so much as a permission slip.”
Such contradictions, both groups insist, indicate the plan is both dangerous and insidious. “Suppose [a student] has severe side effects from the pill but is afraid to tell her parents?” CWA’s Brenda Zurita asks. “It’s late at night or perhaps a weekend, what will she do? Who will she call?. . . Let’s pray that no young girl will die due to complications she was afraid to tell her parents about after she was encouraged at school to hide her sexual activity from her parents.”
Also worrisome, according to both reports, are the results of increased sexual behavior among teen-age girls. The FRC report cites a 2010 study that finds such birth-control medications increase STIs among young women.
According to the FRC, the root of this problem is an inverted understanding of the proper role between parents, children, and government. The FRC describes the “Nanny State” ideology at play: “If moms and dads can’t be trusted to ensure that their kids are eating well, then they certainly can’t be trusted with decisions about sex and abortion. So the government takes away chocolate milk because it’s too fattening–only to turn around and give kids the morning-after pill, which can really kill.”
Concerned Women for America’s Zurita agrees. This program, Zurita insists, is yet another example of an “out-of-control bureaucracy.” “It is frightening and tragic,” Zurita warns, “that there are parents who do not care what their children are doing, and with each example of government intruding between parents and children, this story is fast becoming the norm.”
Finally, CWA’s Zurita raises a powerful point. The NYC Board of Health has claimed that a low parental opt-out rate means this program is not upsetting parents. But as Zurita notes, many parents could simply be unaware of the program. Since when do schools assume that every announcement sent home with students has been dutifully delivered to parents? With non-controversial notices such as bad report cards, students are required to return parent signatures to prove that parents actually saw the notice. But with a more profoundly morally complex notice such as this, the school district simply assumes that students shared the information with parents?
In the eyes of these fundamentalist activist organizations, something stinks with New York’s CATCH.