If you have been a parent in New York City for more than 20 years, you might remember “Heather Has Two Mommies.” That was one of the books public school children were going to be required to read in order to learn tolerance toward the homosexual lifestyle. It also marked one of the most public fights over the education system’s attempt to strip parents of their rights. Parents couldn’t be trusted to teach tolerance, the reasoning went, so teachers would do it for them. I was a public school teacher at the time, and I was among those leading the charge against that curriculum.
New York schools are at it again, but it’s worse this time. Now teenage girls in 13 high schools are being given hormonal contraceptives, by pill or injection, and morning-after pills upon request, and without the express consent of their parents. This has been going on since last year. The New York Post first reported on it this past weekend and the outrage has been growing ever since. This program, called CATCH – Connect Adolescents to Comprehensive Health Care – is wrong in so many ways that it’s hard to know where to start.
According to what’s been reported on this program, parents can opt out. But many parents — including a woman who works with me at Priests for Life and whose daughter attends one of the 13 schools — have never been told about CATCH. They missed their opportunity to opt out. If the Health Department deemed this program so vital, at the very least, parents should have the opportunity to opt in.
It would be interesting to see how many parents would opt in to a program that hands out known carcinogenic drugs to their teenagers. Birth control pills and the powerful morning-after drug are not health care by any definition. They are dangerous drugs, according to the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health. Do school nurses have accurate information on every student’s health history? Do they ask if a student is a smoker? Has a history of heart attack, stroke or blood clots in her family? If she has a mother or grandmother or aunt who has breast cancer? The Pill is bad for everyone, but it’s especially bad for women and girls with certain red flags in their health histories.
The aim of CATCH is to reduce the city’s teenage pregnancy and abortion numbers. Those are good goals. But what CATCH is doing to making it OK for teenagers to engage in sex, when what schools should be doing is reinforcing the message that sex in high school is not a good idea. Public schools obviously are not going to teach children religious or even moral reasons not to have sex. But if they just accurately taught about the dangers of sex, both physical and mental, many kids might get the point. Have we somehow forgotten AIDS? The message of CATCH is that sex is a good thing as long as you’re using contraception, and even if you mess up, there’s a way out. Is that what we want our teenagers to learn in school?
Schools require permission slips for everything and they won’t give a Tylenol or a Midol to a student without a parent’s say so, but school personnel in some states, including New York, can take your teenage girl for an abortion without your knowledge or consent. Obviously it doesn’t make sense, but those of us who work in pro-life are used to it. When it comes to contraception and abortion, there’s a whole different set of rules. And the people making those rules don’t have your teenager’s best interest in mind.