Dear Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott,
As parents, we wish to express our strong opposition to the Connecting Adolescents To Comprehensive Health (CATCH) pilot program. In fact, we would like it to be known that 55.8% of parents with children under the age of 18 oppose the CATCH program, according to a recent poll commissioned by the Chiaroscuro Foundation and conducted by Smith Johnson Research.
While we agree with the goal of reducing unwanted pregnancies, we object to the deceptive means employed by the Department of Education to disengage parents from important, potentially life-altering health care decisions involving their minor children. According to the same poll, only 30% of parents think the city’s current “opt-out” procedure is appropriate.
Furthermore, no one questions the idea that giving teens access to Plan B will work to decrease teenage pregnancies. But we should question it, because there is no evidence that it will, and in fact there is some evidence that the increased access will change teen behavior in a way that will result in an increase in sexually transmitted diseases. Several studies over the years have concluded that access to abortion and contraceptives alter sexual behavior in ways that lead to more unplanned pregnancies and STI’s.
In reality, CATCH should be replaced with proven risk avoidance programs that will encourage adolescents to wait at least until they are adults before becoming sexually active. Fully 76% of parents would support abstinence education if it taught the facts about contraception but promoted delaying sex as the best choice for teens. Additionally, 81% of parents would support abstinence education if it taught healthy relationship skills to teens.
New York parents have strong opinions about their children’s sex education. Parents, not the school system, should decide the health care options for their children. We strongly urge that you suspend the CATCH pilot program, respect the rights of parents to make affirmative health care decisions involving their children, and create a permanent parents advisory council to advise city agencies on how best to engage parents.
Michael Benjamin, Former Assemblyman, NY
Ali Klo, MD, NY
John Margand, lawyer, NY
George H. Morrissey, Board Member, Program Reach, NY
State Senator Reverend Reuben Diaz (D-Bronx), NY
Greg Pfundstein, Chiaroscuro Foundation, NY
Meg McDonnell, Chiaroscuro Foundation, NY
Edward Mechmann, Archdiocese of New York
Bill Harder, The Cross Road Foundation, Executive Director
Pastor William Devlin RN BSN MA, Interim Pastor, Iglesia Biblica de Manhattan, Manhattan NYC
Chris Slattery, President, Expectant Mother Care
Miriam Grossman, M.D. Psychiatrist, NY
Chaplain Viviana V. Hernandez, United Chaplains State of NY
Nanci Coppola, MD, Executive Director of Program Reach
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