Stay safe, freshmen women

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August 31, 2007

3:07 PM

I’m sure you’ve all pored over back-to-school lists for the past few weeks trying to figure out what to bring to campus: books and binders, trendy new lamps and storage containers and colorful throw rugs. But for women entering college, one of the most important purchases isn’t found in Target’s hip dorm department, but at the pharmacy: Emergency Contraception, “the morning after pill” and Plan B — all of which refer to a pack of two small pills that can significantly reduce the risk of pregnancy after unprotected sex.

p. If you choose to be sexually active, you should protect yourself beforehand. Condoms are a must because they can prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. For women who are sexually active on a regular basis, hormonal birth control can be really convenient. But hey, we’re all pretty intelligent people, and you probably already know about condoms and pills. I’m also sure a lot of you know about the joys of abstinence too, but a lot of women all over the country don’t know much about EC.

p. Up until recently, if you had sex and the condom broke, you were screwed (no pun intended). If you didn’t plan on having sex but it just happened, you were screwed again. And if, God forbid, a woman was sexually assaulted, she could only pray that she didn’t become pregnant. But that changed when EC was approved by the FDA for over-the-counter use.

p. EC can work in three ways to prevent a pregnancy: it can prevent an egg from being released from the ovaries, sperm from fertilizing an egg or a fertilized egg from implanting itself in the uterine wall. According to Planned Parenthood, if taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex, EC can be up to 95 percent effective in preventing a pregnancy. If taken within 72 hours it can reduce your risk by 75 to 89 percent and can also help when taken within the first 120 hours. Now that EC is over-the-counter for women 18 and up, you should be able to ride your bike to the nearest drugstore and buy a pack. I say “should be able to” because women have had problems obtaining EC from overlyzealous pharmacists who find it morally reprehensible.

p. There is a misconception that EC causes abortion. It does not. EC is birth control, and it cannot terminate a pregnancy. Many people confuse EC with mifepristone (RU-486), the abortion pill, but they are two different drugs. There are some anti-choice activists who know the difference between EC and RU-486, and still believe that EC causes abortion because, for people who oppose abortion for purely religious reasons, life begins at conception. Because EC can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall, to them, this is abortion. The problem is that the medical community defines “pregnancy” as a fertilized egg that has already implanted itself in the uterine wall. So if we go by medical definitions, EC absolutely cannot cause an abortion.

p. Another problem with the “EC is abortion” belief is that there is no difference between EC and the birth control pill. They are made of the exact same hormones (in different doses), and they do the exact same thing. So, people who find EC morally unacceptable also, effectively, oppose birth control.

p. My point is not to argue with people who oppose abortion, EC, birth control, etc. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs about reproductive rights. But as young women entering a new realm of independence and uncertainty, it’s important to equip yourselves with all the facts, so you can make informed, healthy choices.
Devan Barber is a senior at the College.

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