BY ALLYSON MILLER
Birth control accessibility, especially on college campuses, is a highly contested issue throughout the United States. For many college students, a burning question may be where they can find it.
At Drake University, condoms are by far the most accessible form, as they can be purchased at the C-Store or from vending machines in the residence halls. Also, the American Republic Health Center at Drake provides condoms and lubricant in its office.
Phoebe Clark, a senior studying law, politics and society and rhetoric, media and social change, is the current president of Student Activists for Gender Equality, a student organization “devoted to the engagement in dialogues about world, national, and local issues from a feminist perspective,” according to the group’s Facebook page. She said she’s concerned that not everyone can access other forms of birth control due to insurance issues or family reasons.
Some people, she said, are already good to go when it comes to their reproductive health before stepping on campus.
“Most of the people that I know that do use some form of birth control, be it hormonal or physical like an intrauterine device (IUD), they pretty much came to campus with that already set up,” Clark said.
For those students who are away from home for the first time and unsure how to access birth control, the American Republic Health Center on Drake’s campus may serve as a launch pad of information.
“We can do (the birth control pill) here,” said Marybeth Olander, a registered nurse at the Health Center. “They just need to call and make an appointment, and the nurse practitioner can discuss options, and then they can fill out a prescription for it.”
If a student is interested in getting on the pill, the Health Center can give a student a prescription after performing either a mini physical or a complete physical with a pap smear based on the student’s age. A pap smear is a cancer screening for cervical cancer, and is recommended for women who have reached the age of 21.
Both the prescription and the mini physical are low cost options, but a pap smear would require the student’s insurance card since it has to be sent out to a local hospital. Financial inquiries on this matter should be directed to the Drake Health Center.
There are also other options besides oral birth control.
“We can give the depo shot here,” Olander said.
A depo shot, also known as Depo-Provera, is a form of birth control administered as a shot by a nurse or doctor every three months, according to Planned Parenthood’s website.
The Health Center can refer students to other resource centers for other options such as IUDs and implants.
However, some people believe a recent problem for other resource centers is a lack of funding. Clark said when she visited a Planned Parenthood about finding an affordable IUD, she was directed to the Iowa Family Planning Network, an organization that no longer exists.
“[The Iowa State Legislature] cut funding from all family planning services that provide abortion,” Clark said.
Instead, the Family Planning Program has taken the place of Iowa Family Planning Network, which assures on its website that “eligibility and covered benefits did not change.” The Family Planning Program covers a variety of birth control options including IUDs, diaphragms, vaginal rings and vasectomies.
With the Iowa State Legislature affecting birth control accessibility, it can be hard to tell whether outside factors have a wide reaching effect on campuses or if the campus itself is not doing as much as it could.
“That’s a little tricky,” Clark said.
Clark said accessible birth control on campuses is not only a state issue but is also caused by a lack of initiative on the part of the universities.
“I would love to see Drake do something proactive, maybe with the Health Care Center, to get our students birth control,” Clark said.
Student Activists for Gender Equality is partnering with Voice of Choice to put on events focused on increasing awareness of safe and consensual sex in both the fall and spring semesters.
For more information about birth control options and availability, students should contact the American Republic Health Center.