Teens as young as 12 years old can now go online and sign up for a taxpayer-funded condom delivery service.
The California Condom Access Project targets counties with high numbers of sexually transmitted diseases among teenagers, and the program has now expanded to include San Diego and Fresno counties, reports the California Family Health Council, which runs the project.
Teens can visit this site and order as many as 10 free condoms delivered to their doorstep in confidential packaging. With each order, teens also receive lubricant to reduce breakage as well as educational materials. California law allows teens to gain access to contraceptives without parental consent.
The program has received a mixed response. “It’s one more example of the government’s intrusion on parental rights,” Chris Clark, Pastor at Clairemont Baptist Church in San Diego, said to FOX in the video above.
“I would ask parents the question, 'Who should be making decisions for the welfare of your child? You or should the state?,'” he added.
San Diego County has the second-highest number of chlamydia cases among 15- to 19-year-olds in the state and the sixth-highest number of gonorrhea cases, according to the California Family Health Council. The state delivered more than 30,000 condoms last year, the first year of the program.
Across California, STD rates are on the rise. Syphilis cases jumped by 18 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to data from the California Department of Public Health. There was also a five percent increase in chlamydia cases and a 1.5 percent increase in gonorrhea cases.
Commenters on CNN weighed in with varying opinions. "If I was 12 and hearing this 'news' and looking at my Lego blocks, I would feel like such a loser. 'Is everyone doing it but me?' Talk about pressure!," commenter Song Sing Sing wrote.
Commenter bare_necessities, who received free condoms during a fifth-grade health class, "couldn't disagree more."
"Most, if not all, of us hadn't even become interested in the other sex at that age," bare_necessities wrote, saying that most students made balloons with the condoms. "But I'd like to think that the experience prepared us better for when we did. Condoms don't make children more sexually active."
The program, which runs on a $5,000 annual budget, aims to target teens who are too embarrassed to buy condoms in a store.
The California Family Health Council recommends that parents visit TalkWithYourKids.org and talk to their kids about sex.
"It's really important that we all share with youth in our lives that abstinence is the most effective way to avoid sexually transmitted infection and unintended pregnancy," Amy Moy, vice president of public affairs of the council, said to KPBS.
"But we know that teens are engaging in sexual activity, and we just want to help them be as safe as possible and not keep our heads in the sand and pretend there isn't a problem," she continued.
The state program's expansion comes after the FDA on Tuesday lowered to 15 the age at which girls can buy the morning-after pill without a prescription and said the emergency contraception no longer has to be kept behind pharmacy counters.