New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is running for mayor of the city, announced that she may support middle schools providing emergency contraception to girls as young as 11 if studies showed benefit to students.
“I understand it can make some people uncomfortable,” said Quinn, “[but] we need to recognize the reality of what’s happening in children’s lives and give them what they need to make the right choices and protect themselves.”
Quinn noted that despite controversy, the need for such a plan “may become a reality…you’d love to be in a place where that wasn’t a reality in middle-school children’s lives, but I think that we’re going to have to look at this, and if the data shows us that that is what would be most helpful, that is what we’ll do.”
This statement came shortly after Planned Parenthood’s New York political wing endorsed Quinn as their mayoral pick.
Quinn’s fellow candidates in the New York race were also questioned on their opinions on emergency contraception in middle school. Both former City Councilman Sal Albanese and current Controller John Liu said that they, too, would consider such a program. Other mayoral candidates, including Anthony Weiner, Bill de Blasio and Bill Thompson, did not respond to reporters about their stance.
Emergency contraception is already available in more than 50 high schools across New York, primarily in areas with high teen pregnancy rates. Students, some of them 13 or 14 years old, may visit school nurses’ offices or on-site clinics for an immediate prescription from a health professional. The city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported that over the 2011-12 school year, about 5,500 girls received emergency contraception, with some of them using it more than once.
Parents of high-school students were offered the opportunity to opt out of the plan, but only about 3 percent chose to do so. Middle-school parents would also be able to opt out.
Emergency contraception, or the “morning-after pill,” helps prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. It is controversial in part because people often confuse it with the abortion pill, when in fact emergency contraception does not terminate pregnancy.