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Associated Press, September 23, 2007

NYC teens find access to contraception not so easy, report says

DATELINE: NEW YORK

The city is not yet living up to its promise to make emergency contraception easily accessible, according to a study released Sunday by the city's public advocate.

Only 15 of 38 teen health clinics operated by the New York City Health & Hospitals Corp. have emergency contraception available for same-day pickup, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum said.

"Here is the reality: Emergency contraception prevents unintended pregnancies," Gotbaum said in a statement containing figures collected by her office. "Women shouldn't be forced to scramble in the case of an emergency. We have the tools to stop unplanned pregnancies before they occur."

Health and Hospitals Corp. disputed the report, saying its hospitals and community-based adolescent health centers provide easy access to emergency contraception.

As part of the study, public advocate's office investigators called 38 teen health clinics and 11 Department of Health and Mental Hygiene sites to learn if they were providing patients with emergency contraception, birth control pills and female condoms.

The office found more than 60 percent of the clinics failed to have emergency contraception available, 73 percent of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene sites failed to provide birth control by prescription and only seven of the 38 teen health clinics had female condoms readily available.

Health and Hospitals Corp. said Gotbaum's report confuses "teen" health clinics that provide basic pediatric care with adolescent health centers where reproductive and adolescent medicine is practiced.

"In the case of Child Health Clinics, the staff correctly advised that access to emergency contraception was not available at those locations," according to a corporation statement.

The corporation said it would conduct additional training for staff who may be asked about the availability of emergency contraception.

The health department did not immediately respond to an after-hours call seeking comment.

In 2005, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a $1 million awareness campaign to boost access to emergency contraception in a city where studies show more than 60 percent of pregnancies are unintended and where a teen pregnancy rate of nearly one in 10 exceeds state and national averages, Gotbaum's office said.

Health and Hospitals is a public benefit corporation that provides medical, mental health and substance abuse services to nearly 1.3 million New Yorkers, according to its Web site.

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