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Free condoms for your 12-year-old? California expands condom program

Posted at 6:31 AM, May 01, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-01 07:28:50-04

(CNN) -- With just a few clicks of a mouse, kids as young as 12 can have free condoms delivered to their doors in California.

And the statewide program has now expanded to two new counties.

The news of the expansion comes as the federal government approves the 'morning-after pill' without a prescription for girls as young as 15.

And the development has garnered mixed reactions from Californians.

"I would ask parents the question, 'Who should be making decisions for the best welfare of your child -- you as a parent, or the state, who has no direct connection, has no understanding, has no relationship with your child?'" San Diego-area pastor Chris Clark told CNN affiliate KSWB.

But the disturbing rates of sexually transmitted diseases among teens call for an immediate response, health officials say.

The Condom Access Project has been around for a year. Late last month, it expanded to San Diego and Fresno counties, bringing to seven the number of counties it serves.

As part of the project, anyone between 12 and 19 years old in the seven counties can confidentially request a pack of 10 condoms online, up to once a month.

With each order, the teens also receives personal lubricant to reduce breakage as well as educational information, said the California Family Health Council, which runs the project.

So far, the program has sent nearly 30,000 condoms to youths via home mailers in the past year.

"Despite broad retail availability, teens continue to face many barriers to accessing condoms," such as embarrassment, cost and confidentiality, the California Family Health Council said.

The council says the mail-order program targets counties that it has designated as "STD hot-spots."

"California is experiencing a near public health crisis with STD rates among teens rising to alarming levels," said Julie Rabinovitz, the council's president. "By providing sexually active teens and their parents with the tools they need to prevent STDs and unintended pregnancy, we are hoping to move the needle in the right direction."

While teen pregnancy rates in the state have declined steadily over the past decade, rates of sexually transmitted diseases among California teens ages 15 to 19 are rising, the council said.

In 2011, more than 42,000 cases of chlamydia and 4,800 cases of gonorrhea were reported in that age group, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Out of California's 58 counties, San Diego and Fresno counties are among the highest for both chlamydia and gonorrhea cases.

The program runs on a $5,000 annual budget supported by federal tax dollars, KSWB reported.

The health council says it operates the country's largest Title X system in the country, providing sexual and reproductive health care for more than 1 million Californians a year. It also receives support from grants and individual and corporate donations, the group said.

The federal Title X Family Planning program, enacted in 1970, provides contraceptive services and preventative health care. By law, priority is given to people from low-income families, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

CNN's Travis Sattiewhite contributed to this report.

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