A Planned Parenthood partner in Ecuador is using youth as young as 11 to deliver the contraceptive injection Depo-Provera as part of a “peer-to-peer” model. Critics said it was a “dangerous” program that undermined parental authority, corrupted youth and would be illegal in the United States.
Veena Siddharth, the vice president for international programs for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), and Dee Redwine, PPFA Latin America regional director, wrote about the program in a Dec. 15 article in Global Health Magazine. Planned Parenthood operates the program through a partnership with the Ecuadoran group, Centro Medico de Orientacion y Planificacion Familiar (CEMOPLAF).
“What if I told you that Juan, a community health care worker in rural Ecuador, is providing injectable contraceptives outside the clinic setting to indigenous community members?” the article begins. “What if I told you that Juan is actually a 15-year-old and the clients he’s reaching are also youth?”
The article says that Juan is one of about 30 young people ages 11 to 19 who receive training in “introduction to injections in general, training in Depo Provera in particular” and in biological safety procedures. The teens also distribute other contraceptives, including birth control pills and condoms.
Siddharth and Redwine go on to explain that the program reaches the hardest to reach indigenous people because for the first-time user the drug is “less invasive” than other long-acting methods. The article also praises the “confidentiality,” “accessibility,” and “convenience” of the program, saying a “promoter” goes to clients every 12 weeks.
Stephen Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute (PRI), told CNSNews.com that the program was a “dangerous prescription” for young Ecuadorans.
“[J]]ust think of the emotional and the medical consequences of allowing teenagers – you can’t even get teenagers to make up their bed – and you are going to allow them to go out and inject their peers with a powerful, steroid-based drug without a medical examination, without awareness of any counter indication of taking the drug?” he said.
Mosher added that contraceptives do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases and can encourage them to become sexually active.
The program “encourages risky sexual behavior, absolutely,” he commented.
Jim Sedlak, vice president of the American Life League (ALL), called the program “absolutely outrageous” and an “assault” on parental authority.
“This would be totally illegal here in the United States,” he told CNSNews.com. “Certainly, Planned Parenthood has used these peer-to-peer programs frequently all over the United States, but they’ve carried it to a horrible extreme in Ecuador where they have 15-year-old kids going out and giving birth control shots to other 13-, 14-, 15-year-old kids.”
CNSNews.com reports that the website of Pfizer, the U.S.-based manufacturer of Depo-Provera, contains many warnings about the drug. It says women using the drug may lose “significant” bone mineral density, a loss that is greater with increasing duration of use and may not be completely reversible.
“It is unknown if use of Depo-Provera Contraceptive Injection during adolescence or early adulthood, a critical period of bone accretion, will reduce peak bone mass and increase the risk of osteoporotic facture in later life,” the warning adds.
It is not clear whether any of the hundreds of millions of dollars Planned Parenthood receives from the federal government is part of the $6.9 million it reported using for its “International Family Programs” during fiscal year 2007-2008.