Views differ over SHS policy on who can buy Plan B

| News Editor

With abortion becoming a key issue in the health care debate, issues related to contraception have taken on renewed importance.

Washington University offers emergency contraceptives to its students. However, unlike most sellers the University does not offer Plan B, an emergency contaceptive, to everyone. Student Health Services (SHS) dispenses emergency contraception only to women.

Plan B, or the “morning after pill,” is a contraceptive that a woman can take to prevent pregnancy after having sex. Although it is not as effective at preventing pregnancy as condoms are, Plan B is 95 percent effective when taken within 24 hours of having unprotected sex and 89 percent effective when taken within 72 hours. It can be taken up to five days after sexual activity, although the pregnancy prevention rates become lower.

The medication is available from SHS on campus at a discounted price of $30. It is also available at places like Schnucks and Walgreen’s for $40 to $50.

Emergency contraceptives are available to both women and men at local pharmacies, but only to women at SHS.

Peer institutions like Northwestern University provide emergency contraception to any student who wants to pick it up, regardless of gender.

SHS staff maintain that the primary reason for denying emergency contraception to men is their general policy of giving medicine directly to the people who will use it.

“It’s a medicine that’s indicated for prevention of pregnancy in females, so we like to dispense medicine to the people that the medicine is intended for,” said Melissa Ruwitch, the assistant director of SHS and chief of health promotion services.

Junior Maria Santos, president of the Committee Organized for Rape Education (C.O.R.E.), does not agree with the policy.

“It takes away really important options to people who are in situations that are clearly stressful,” Santos said.

Pamela Summers, the executive director for NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, an organization dedicated to protecting women’s right to choose, also criticized the policy.

“If you have some man who wants to take the initiative to go and get it, why shouldn’t you give it to him?” Summers said. “It is a surprise to me that Wash. U. would not have one of the most proactive and sophisticated policies around, because that is what we would expect Wash. U. to have.”

But senior Jimmy Cox, co-president of Men Organized for Rape Education (M.O.R.E.), agrees with University policy.

“Men will never be using it and they’d always be getting it for someone else, and if that’s the case, I don’t see why the woman can’t get it herself,” Cox said.

Cox also raised the point that men could coerce their girlfriends into taking emergency contraception.

“It can just as easily be abused that men could force women to take it, so I do think that the risk outweighs the benefit,” Cox said.

  • Student

    Even though I understand and agree with SHS’ distribution policy, this seems insensitive to me:

    “…and if that’s the case, I don’t see why the woman can’t get it herself,” Cox said.”

    The woman may not want to get it herself because she is so distraught over a broken condom; she could have some other commitments right away; she could be distressed over a rape. The man could be her significant other, but it could also just be a close male friend. (A girl could easily pick up EC for a friend… but a boy cannot).

    I hope Mr. Cox, as president of MORE, did not mean the comment to be as rude and unthoughtful as it sounds.

    • Babita

      Eleven is truly shocking, and I would coesidnr ANY 11-year-old as having been raped if she’s engaging in sex. How in the world could an 11 yo have the intellectual capacity to make a informed decision about having sex and come to the conclusion that it would be ok? She would need to be seduced in some way to consent. It makes one wonder what the magic age is when a woman is making a sensible decision about having sex and the consequences in terms of pregnancy (and her realistic ability to both give birth safely and raise the child), avoiding sexually transmitted diseases, and being psychologically capable of maintaining a healthy relationship with the father. When are women mature enough to be good mothers?On the one hand, given that the pregnancy has already occurred, I worry a great deal about the consequences of a child not being raised with love and appropriate care by a mother and father who did not plan for even the possibility of raising a child. For example, child abusers were often abused as children, and continue the pattern of behavior with their children.We should be both giving the morning after pill to any female of any age, and automatically putting putting any girl under the age of 17 into a social service system that would investigate why she’s having sex and get her out of that highly inappropriate situation. Don’t let her go back to the environment where she’ll be a victim yet again. The MAP should be a red flag. But at the very least it would avoid the sad scenario of a child being raised in a mentally and physically abusive home environment.

  • Lauren

    Thanks, Nadia! I’m with you 100%.

  • Nadia Mann

    Actually, blauver, Plan B IS a contraceptive. It does not work if implantation of a fertilized egg has already occurred. Contrary to what you stated, fertilization of the egg can take up to a week after intercourse to occur.

    Furthermore, Plan B is NOT unsafe. While the experience of taking Plan B may not be totally pleasant – as it can cause a woman’s period to begin immediately upon taking it, which can also cause cramping and any other symptoms that normally occur during a period- it is not a dangerous medication by any means. For some actually accurate information about Plan B, visit http://www.planbonestep.com/

    It is absolutely essential to the health of the women on this campus that Plan B be easily available. Birth control failures and condom failures are rare when those forms of contraception are used correctly, but they do still happen. Furthermore, sexual assault is a problem on this campus, and victims of rape should have access to emergency contraception. To deny access to any woman who needs EC – to make Plan B unavailable on campus – would be an infringement of our legal rights and detrimental to the reproductive health of the women at Wash U.

  • blauver

    Mr. Cox is absolutely correct that giving this medication to men who obviously would not take it themselves is just another opportunity to further abusive relationships. SHS is right to restrict its distribution, though frankly it would be far safer for women’s health if they did not distribute it at all.

    Plan B is actually an incredibly high, unsafe dosage of birth control medication, and many dangerous side effects are now being reported.

    Also, it’s incorrect to describe Plan B as a “contraceptive,” as it does not actually prevent conception. It is widely accepted medical fact that conception takes place when sperm fertilizes an egg, which happens essentially immediately after intercourse. Therefore, to take Plan B within a few hours or days after intercourse does not prevent pregnancy, but rather destroys the life of a child who has already been conceived and begun developing.

    A good all-natural, but medically safe and sound alternative is a program offered locally through St. John’s hospital – http://www.stjohnsmercy.org/services/fertility/default.asp

    Thank you for offering an opportunity to discuss this troubling issue.