In taking a roundabout way back to campus one day, I drove by Chester County Planned Parenthood on South Wayne Street. It must have been the day they do abortions, since there was a protestor outside. Everytime I have seen any protestors there, it usually consists of one or two people holding handmade signs. (Not that there?s anything wrong with handmade signs).
Young women have no idea that there are threats to their reproductive rights awaiting voting right now. Congress is expected to vote at the beginning of April on the bill for emergency contraception (EC) in the emergency room for sexual assault victims, which is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Not all emergency rooms have EC, and this bill would require that they do, and would only be dispensed in cases of sexual assault.
Many people do not know exactly what EC is, or confuse it with the abortion pill. More commonly, it is known as the “morning after pill,” and has been around for a few years. However, “morning after” is a bad nick-name as the pill can be taken up to 120 hours after unprotected intercourse, which is equal to five mornings after!
According to webmd.com, EC is basically “a higher-than-usual dose of standard birth control pills.” Sarah Schultz, an intern for Planned Parenthood of Chester County, says that it can be taken up to five days after the incident, with the percentage of effectiveness decreasing with every day that passes. It should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected intercourse, and has the ability to prevent the risk of unplanned pregnancy by 75 to 89 percent., says Sarah.
Our very own WCU Health Center offers EC. However, a receptionist from the Health Center said that they only give out EC 72 hours after unprotected intercourse. The cost is $34, plus any examination fees if necessary. This difference between how long the pill can be taken (web md.com and Planned Parenthood citing 120 hours, the Health Center, 72) could be due to use of different pills (there are two types on the market). Cost for EC at Planned Parenthood is determined on a sliding scale depending on income and health insurance.
While there is much publicity about the Health Center?s inexpensive birth control pills, there should also be more publicity for EC. Has it not been publicized because of the conservative base in this county, or the usual taboo surrounding the topic of abortion, or because people often confuse EC with the abortion pill? Do medical professionals think that young people will be more careless about safe sex if they know that EC is available? I highly doubt that. It?s not like taking EC is fun. There is the possibility of nausea and vomiting, breast tenderness, fatigue, headache, abdominal pain and dizziness, and there may be financial costs involved as well.
Despite these possible factors, there should be more publicity and educational posters for EC at the Health Center and all over campus. Many people do not know the basics about this effective method of preventing unwanted pregnancy. Anti-abortionists should hail the medication because it calls for fewer abortions! Best of all, if a woman IS pregnant, the pill does NOTHING to harm the fetus. Seems like a win-win situation, right?
Why, then, do we not see much publicity for EC? If I didn?t know that our Health Center had EC, my guess is that many other people don?t know either.
In France, a progestin-only emergency contraceptive identical to Plan B is available behind the counter. This means that it is not on the shelf, but it is available without a prescription just by asking a pharmacist, according to webmd.com. It is also available through high school or junior high school nurses in France, and it is available over the counter in Norway.
You may ask yourself, “What?s the difference? We have EC available.” This is true, and we are lucky to have it. But even still, a woman has to go see her doctor, get a prescription, go to a pharmacy and get it filled. Although you may think that a woman would take any step to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, all these hurdles might be intimidating to someone who is scared and fears telling anyone or getting support due to the taboo around the topic of sex, the confusion or equating it with having an abortion, and the guilt that some pro-life groups lay on women who do so.
The issue of choice is one that is clouded in controversy. I am proud to take a stand for what I believe in, and deep down in my heart, I am proud of the pro-life people of every race, religion, and creed who stand outside the clinics protesting abortions, too. I urge anyone who has the time to participate in something that they are passionate about to do so. Many citizens are apathetic far too often these days. Women?s reproductive rights are still in threat, and now is not the time to be apathetic.