Editorial: Change to opt-in access for morning-after pill at schools
The morning-after pill is now available over the counter and in some New York City high schools.
The Obama administration dropped its opposition last month to an order by federal Judge Edward Korman that told the Food and Drug Administration to approve Plan B -- the morning-after contraceptive -- for over-the-counter distribution.
President Barack Obama said before the switch that as the father of two young girls, he wasn't comfortable with the idea of over-the-counter sales.
Neither are we.
The administration apparently dropped its opposition because it reasoned it would lose on appeal. But the movement to distribute Plan B has also been moving forward in city public schools. And where the potential for pregnancy is involved, there's usually a strong need for parents to have a role, no matter what courts and federal officials say.
Yet in New York City, Plan B is available -- without explicit parental approval -- to female students in 13 high schools. The essence of the program makes sense. Almost 40 percent of public high school students are sexually active, according to city health department statistics, and 90 percent of teen pregnancies are unintended.
The schools do send out notices inviting parents to opt out of the distribution program. But only 1 to 2 percent. That's an amazingly small proportion for a matter so loaded with health, emotional, religious and family issues. It raises doubts that the forms are reaching the right people.
In one key respect, the high-school programs are better than over-the-counter sales.
At least the schools in the city's program have nurses, doctors, social workers and staffers from the condom availability program standing by to help students who need their services. But however distribution is handled, the adults guiding the lives of students need to know what's going on.
City schools should consider an explicit opt-in rule rather than assuming that silence is approval.
The default position should favor parents.