NEW YORK, September 24, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com)  – New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan says a public school program to distribute potentially abortion-inducing drugs to teenagers without parental knowledge or consent undermines the family and allows the government “to substitute its beliefs and values for those of the parents.”

The program, known as Connecting Adolescents To Comprehensive Health (CATCH), provides students at 13 New York City high schools with Plan B, birth control pills, and the long-lasting shot Depo-Provera, without parental consent or notification. The schools also include condoms and pregnancy testing.

According to the manufacturer’s information Plan B, also known as the morning after pill, may in some cases cause the death of a newly conceived embryo by preventing it from implanting in the uterine will.

“This policy of dispensing of powerful medicines to young women — without their parents’ knowledge and consent — is tragic and misguided,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Diocese of Brooklyn wrote today in a blog post on the Archdiocese of New York website

The pilot program began in January 2011 with five schools. The city Department of Health distributed Plan B to 567 teenage girls, and another 580 received Reclipsen birth control. Officials did not say how many students were referred for treatment off-campus.

This year the program expanded to 14 schools with a total of 22,000 students, encompassing five percent of all the city’s students.

One school, Seward Park Campus, dropped out after its medical office was swamped.

Health officials say only one to two percent of parents in those schools chose to opt out of the program. 

However, Cardinal Dolan and Bishop DiMarzio argued that requiring an opt out does not give parents sufficient say in the lives of girls as young as 14. In New York City, parental consent is necessary for a minor to get a tattoo or ear piercing. “For every other medical procedure, explicit, informed consent is required,” they write. “But not when these powerful drugs – with their potentially serious side effects – are involved.”

At least some school officials agree.

“We can’t give out a Tylenol without a doctor’s order,” a school staffer, who chose to remain anonymous, told the New York Post. “Why should we give out hormonal preparations with far more serious possible side effects, such as blood clots and hypertension?”

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Reclipsen’s side effects include everything from loss of appetite to depression, liver cancer, sudden blindness, heart attack, stroke, and hepatitis. 

Critics note the widespread distribution of contraception often leads to increased misery for teens.

Greg Pfundstein, executive director of the Chiaroscuro Foundation, noted a 2010 study from Tablet, which found that access to contraception increases the rates of teen pregnancy and STDs. 

“Abstinence before marriage is the only sure way to avoid pregnancy and disease, while also allowing minors to practice virtue and responsibility,” Cardinal Dolan and Bishop DiMarzio wrote. “The public schools would be better advised to promote what truly works rather than continuing to follow a failed experiment that will only lead to further problems for society and for young people.”