As part of a campaign against teen pregnancy, New York City health officials are promoting a smartphone app that will help teenagers locate free clinics that can answer questions about sex, prescribe birth control, test for sexually transmitted diseases or even provide an abortion.
The Teens in NYC Protection mobile app was quietly made available in early spring before getting a more public rollout Wednesday at a health care center in the Bronx.
It is expressly intended to let teenagers get information about reproductive health services confidentially.
"Teens in NYC have the right to sexual health services without getting permission from parents, girlfriends/boyfriends or anyone else," the application says on its welcome screen. It's available for Apple and Google Android devices.
The idea that the city might help children get access to contraception or locate an abortion provider is likely to dismay some parents, but the city's health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley, said that based on the past public reaction to similar programs, he didn't expect a backlash.
"Most parents are overwhelmingly supportive," he said.
The app has sex education videos, including one about a girl who is confused about her sexual orientation. Users can also find places to get free condoms, a pregnancy test or counseling.
"We used to provide some basic information in a tiny pamphlet. But these days, the language of kids is the mobile phone," Farley said.
He credited a 30 percent decline in the city teen pregnancy rate partly to parents and schools being more open to discussing the risks of unprotected sex.
Nearly one in 10 New York City girls ages 15 to 19 had a pregnancy in 2001. By 2011 that rate had dropped to about one in 15, the city estimates.