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In California, Free Condoms for Kids As Young as 12

Update Date: May 02, 2013 01:23 PM EDT

In California, children as young as 12 are able to order condoms for free, sent discreetly to their house, with just a few clicks.

The Condom Access Project has been in existence for a year, CNN reports. Operating with a lean budget of $5,000 from the federal government, the program aims to serve counties in the state that are in the midst of a sexually transmitted infection epidemic among teens. Recently, while the Food and Drug Administration announced that it would lower the age requirement for the morning-after pill to 15, the program announced that it would expand access to children in the San Diego and Fresno areas.

Teen pregnancy rates have declined across the state but, in many areas, the number of teens who have been diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections has increased. According to KPBS, San Diego County has the second highest number of Chlamydia cases among 12- to 19-year-olds. In gonorrhea cases, the Southern California county is sixth.

The program has drawn fire from parents who see the program as an infringement by the state on their parental rights, WAFB reports. That is because the adolescent receives 10 free condoms once a month, personal lubricant to reduce the risk of breakage and educational information - all without the need for parental consent. However, program administrators see their work as a public health mission. They say that they want to target young people who cannot access condoms or who feel embarrassed buying them, and hope that, if a parent comes across the package, it does not spark an entirely new conversation.

"California is experiencing a near public health crisis with STD rates among teens rising to alarming levels," Julie Rabinovitz, the California Family Health Council's president, said to CNN. "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."

In 2011, California reported over 42,000 cases of Chlamydia and 4,800 cases of gonorrhea among 12- to 19-year-olds.

So far, the program services seven counties. Last year, they mailed out 30,000 condoms.

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