Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Sunday, September 23, 2018

It’s time for accessible Plan B

Stocking P.O.D. Market with emergency contraception is needed for student health and wellness

It’s time for accessible Plan B

Plan B, one brand of emergency contraception, is an integral part of sexual health for college students. Without easy, safe and educated access to emergency contraception, the overall sexual health and wellbeing of our student body will suffer.

Emergency contraception (EC) is a method of contraception used to prevent pregnancy after sexual intercourse. The sooner after intercourse EC is taken -- ideally within 72 hours -- the better. Plan B, one form of EC, is a pill that is made up of levonorgestrel, a hormone that can actually be found in some birth control pills. The dose in Plan B is much higher, but works in a similar way to traditional birth control .

There are three ways Plan B can work to prevent pregnancy: by stopping the ovary from releasing an egg and therefore leaving nothing for the sperm to fertilize, by preventing the sperm from fertilizing the egg or by preventing the fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus. Plan B will not work if you are already pregnant; it is not an abortifacient, meaning it will not induce an abortion if you are already pregnant.

Both EC and medical abortion are both necessary parts of comprehensive health care but with increased access to EC, abortion rates actually decrease. It is cheaper, easier, and more straightforward to take EC than it is to have an abortion. And, importantly, Plan B is used fairly commonly: one in four women aged 20-24 have used some form of EC.

While the Student Health Center (SHC) does supply Plan B, there are multiple reasons why having it available exclusively in the health center is detrimental to the sexual wellness of the student body. First is the hours of operation. The health center is only open Monday and Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Students are most likely more sexually active on weekends, and EC is most effective the sooner one takes it.

Unprotected sex on Friday would mean that a student has to wait until at least Monday morning to access EC. That is, if a student can get an appointment, which can be difficult to make within the 72-hour window of time when EC is most effective.

Second, though SHC gets a discount on Plan B and can therefore be sold to students for $20, there is still a $20 charge for having an appointment in the first place, doubling the cost of the visit. For EC, the SHC does not take insurance and the entire cost would have to come out of the student’s pocket.

This could lead a student to head to an off-campus location to obtain EC. Only about two-thirds of all pharmacies will carry Plan B, even though it’s recommended, and only 14 percent will place it on a shelf without it being secured. Pharmacists can also refuse to sell it based on their own religious beliefs. And for already nervous students, advocating for something as personal as EC to a judgmental stranger is not easy.

The solution is clear: Plan B must be provided on campus in an accessible location to all students. P.O.D. serves this need perfectly. Open until 2 a.m. every day of the week, many students frequent the location often. There already is a decently-sized healthcare section where one can purchase cold medicine and condoms. Having EC stocked and ready alleviates most, if not all, of the burdens listed above and creates a community of safety, wellness and empowerment.

Steph Black is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences and a columnist for The Eagle.

sblack@theeagleonline.com

This article originally appeared in December 2017 print edition of The Eagle.


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