New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the city’s new maternity leave program for teen students is compassionate and a practical approach to helping new moms.
The Daily News reported this week that high school and middle school students who have a baby can now get a two month leave, along with home visits from a nurse and social worker. Education department officials say the program is intended to fight dropout rates among teen moms.
“You have to have some compassion,” Bloomberg said. “You have to understand that unless you get her an education, she’s not going to be able to take care of her child and the rest of us are burdened and the child doesn’t have a chance in hell of sharing in the great American dream.”
Bill Albert of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy applauded the program for promoting education for teen moms, but cautioned that officials should not “inadvertently send the message that getting pregnant and having a child when you’re 15, 16 years old is no big deal.”
The 2004 Women’s Health Daybook, distributed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, fails to address pregnancy prevention, say leaders of more than 30 state and national organizations engaged in promoting women’s health.
The organizations wrote a letter this week to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to express dismay that his department is distributing the book.
“In a country where women and teenaged girls have more than 3 million unintended pregnancies a year, it is simply unconscionable that our leading government health agency has omitted from an official publication the important pregnancy prevention information women need to protect their health,” the letter states. “Unintended pregnancy can have serious health consequences, particularly for women with high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer or mental illness.”
Some of the organizations that signed the letter include the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, the National Women’s Law Center, the National Health Law Program, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas, Black Women for Wellness, the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Interfaith Impact of New York State, California Church IMPACT, California Women’s Lawyers, California Catholics for Free Choice, American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights.
“The failure to inform women about how to prevent unintended pregnancy is especially troubling, given the administration’s focus on curtailing women’s access to legal abortion,” the organizations wrote, noting that half of all unintended pregnancies end in abortion. Some 34 million American women are in need of contraceptive services to prevent unintended pregnancy, according to new data from the Alan Guttmacher Institute.
The letter calls on the department of Health and Human Services to take “strong, positive steps in the year 2004” to provide information and services women need to prevent unintended pregnancies.
— Alexandra Poolos.