The teen pregnancy rate in New York City dropped by 27 percent over the last decade, a statistic that city officials credit to teens’ expanded access to contraception.
The city’s health commissioner, Tom Farley,told the New York Daily News that the data shows two concurrent trends: more adolescents are choosing to use birth control, and more of them are also delaying sexual intercourse. That’s partly because New York is one of the 21 states that allows all minors to have access to contraceptive services — and two years ago, the public school system began a pilot program to provide Plan B to public school students in districts with high rates of unintended pregnancy:
The city has worked to make it easier for kids to get birth control — giving out condoms at schools and making birth control and the morning-after pill available in some school clinics, a sometimes controversial move.
Farley said the numbers show that strategy is working.
“It shows that when you make condoms and contraception available to teens, they don’t increase their likelihood of being sexually active. But they get the message that sex is risky,” he said. [...]
Teen pregnancy in the city is still higher than it is nationwide, but it has fallen at a sharper rate, officials said.
Despite the promising trends, health officials in the city note that there are still significant racial and geographic disparities among the teens who are getting pregnant. The Bronx has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the country, and African-American teens in New York City have a much higher pregnancy rate than their white counterparts — 110.7 births for every 1,000 back girls, compared with 16 births for every 1,000 white girls. That trend is evident on a national level, too. Black and Latina women have the highest rates of unplanned pregnancy and, subsequently, the highest rates of abortion.
But the city’s school system is on the right track, since part of addressing the connection between poverty and teen pregnancy is increasing access to affordable birth control. Removing the cost barriers to contraception encourages low-income women to choose longer-lasting, more effective forms of birth control that lower their risk for unintended pregnancy. And increasing adolescents’ access to Plan B is particularly important since the Department of Health and Human Services requires women under the age of 17 to obtain a prescription for Plan B, an unnecessary extra step that is often a barrier preventing adolescents from accessing the contraception they need in a timely manner.
Despite right-wing fervor over Plan B, it is an extremely safe medication that does not actually induce abortion. The majority of parents whose children are enrolled in New York City’s public schools support the city’s initiative to expand access to this type of contraception.