Views differ over SHS policy on who can buy Plan B
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.