Contraception misconceptions

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April 1, 2008

1:07 AM

After a winter of huddling in the Dupont laundry room for warmth and cursing my mother for not buying me rain boots, spring has finally crept into Williamsburg.

Even on the colder days, the official spring-is-here daffodils planted in front of Swem and the bright-eyed tour groups gaping at Old Campus buildings keep me hopeful that I might in fact make it out of this semester without eventually receding into the library stacks and being absorbed by the profound volumes that never seem to put it quite as well as Wikipedia.

While the rest of campus sheds the cares of winter to reside in the Sunken Garden for the rest of the semester, let’s not get too crazy. With warmer weather come birds, bees and the tendency to throw caution to the wind — a luxury recently hindered for thousands of college women.

Surges in birth control prices across the country have forced many women to reevaluate or even abandon their chosen methods of contraception.

Prior to a Medicaid addendum that erased this privilege, college health centers and organizations like Planned Parenthood could purchase contraception from pharmaceutical companies for deeply discounted prices. After stores ran out, prices escalated dramatically, forcing women of all ages and socioeconomic brackets to turn to less reliable or desirable forms of birth control.

“Okay,” you say. “But I’m not on birth control. I’m not even a girl. Does this even matter to me?”

The short answer is that it should. Outside the relatively insulated cocoon of college life, thousands of low-income women frequent Planned Parenthood and similar health clinics to obtain affordable birth control.

With appropriate means of family planning, they are able to take control over their own lives and exert a measure of independence over their sexual health. Without this, they are forced to resort to less preferable methods or no protection at all.

Within colleges like our own, affordable birth control gives women seeking contraception a private and premeditated option. In a culture that glorifies random hook-ups and one-night stands, affordable contraception means safety, discretion and one fewer thing to worry about, especially in situations in which neither party may be capable of making a sound decision. In addition, college-provided birth control outside of personal insurance plans allows adult women to make a personal choice about their bodies that may not comply with their parents’ beliefs.

From a more philosophical perspective, I believe that widely available, low-priced birth control doesn’t encourage promiscuity or sexual irresponsibility. On the contrary, allowing women access to contraception reinforces conscientious decision-making and personal accountability, and may prevent making more difficult decisions later on. Besides, beyond sexual reasons, many women use the pill to regulate disruptive menstrual symptoms or help with medical problems such as anemia.

So, even if you personally have no use for or intention of going on the pill, think about your friends, girlfriend, sister or that cute girl who sits next to you in Brit Lit, and consider the possibilities. Affordable contraception means safety, responsibility and control for a large segment of the population — boys, that can only mean good things for you.

Take a break from studying in the Sunken Garden to sign a letter or a petition, and keep an eye out for information on upcoming events. I know it’s the end of the year, but some issues stay relevant even when your European history readings or calculus problem sets lose whatever pull they might have had, say, in January.

I encourage you to leave the library and take a look at what you can change on campus, for campus. Affordable, available birth control proves that staying safe can definitely be more fun.
Alexa McClanahan is a freshman at the College.

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