Another concern: Those who oppose the program worry that easy access to Plan B will encourage careless behavior; if students know a backup plan exists, why bother protecting themselves in the first place? But research suggests that's not the case. A 2005 American Academy of Pediatrics report, for example, concluded that "an increase in awareness and availability of emergency contraception to teens does not change reported rates of sexual activity or increase the frequency of unprotected intercourse." Breuner, who wrote an AAP policy statement on emergency contraception that will be published in December, adds: "No studies have shown that access to Plan B causes kids to be sexually active."
That doesn't sway Valerie Huber, president of the National Abstinence Education Association, a Washington, D.C.-based professional association. This week, the group released findings from its national survey, showing that 87 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Democrats support abstinence education. "We think CATCH has its priorities all wrong," Huber says. "It communicates a message that minimizes the risks associated with sex." She highlights the fact that STDs can still be transmitted even when condoms are used. "A condom plus sex doesn't equal safe. The morning-after pill plus sex doesn't equal safe," she says. "These schools aren't providing the information and skills students need to make the healthiest decisions. It doesn't make any sense."
It's unclear if other schools nationwide will follow NYC's lead, but if the pilot program proves effective and reduces pregnancies, others will perhaps take similar steps. "This is extremely important to me as a woman, a mother of a teen daughter, a sister, and an aunt," says Breuner. "Access to contraception and family planning has been an issue for years, and I hope this sparks a discussion, and that women realize it's available and won't hurt them. This could have a huge ripple effect on women's rights, far greater than just those 13 schools."