Thursday, November 17, 2011

Plan B creates new options for students

Choice to use emergency contraceptive crucial for ‘basic freedom’

By Mel Natwick, A&E editor

Senior Jen Hermeier attended a party where alcohol was involved and described the entire night as a “big blur.” She barely remembered having a one night stand and whether protection was used. The following day, she went to Walgreens and purchased Plan B to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.

The Pacific Lutheran Health Center gives students the opportunity to make their own choices regarding emergency contraceptives and birth control.

The Health Center educates and provides Plan B for students.

Plan B is a way to reduce chances of pregnancy if a woman has unprotected sex, including situations where the woman was intoxicated, the sex was forced or her other birth control methods did not work, Health Educator Matt Munson said. The pill is only effective up to five days after the unprotected sex, but Munson said it is more effective before three days.

“The Health Center believes that students should have access to birth control methods that they want or need,” Munson said.

The Health Center used to give out Plan B for free to students but now charges it for $17 because of budget cuts from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Clinic Coordinator Doreen Splinter said.

The Health Center uses a generic version of Plan B called Next Choice, which is cheaper than other pharmacy prices. The price range for Plan B can be $10-$70, according to the Planned Parenthood website.

Acting Director of the Women’s Center Jennifer Smith supports the Health Center providing Plan B and other birth control options for students.

“It’s their bodies,” Smith said. “Having the ability to make that choice is really significant for basic freedom, and being able to determine when and if you want to have a child is one of those cornerstones of being truly free and therefore women should have access to that choice.”

Hermeier wanted to be more “safe than sorry,” so she decided to take Plan B.

“If Plan B wasn’t an option and I was to get pregnant, I don’t know if I would still be here, graduating on time,” Hermeier said. “There were just so many ‘ifs’ that I didn’t want to take that chance.”

Another Pacific Lutheran student had a one night stand and made the choice to use Plan B. The student wished to remain anonymous because she wanted to protect her privacy, and will go by the pseudonym Jane.

She decided to use Plan B because a condom was not used and she did not take her birth control consistently.

Jane said that she “felt like a weight was lifted” after taking the emergency contraceptive.

The controversy of pharmacies refusing to sell Plan B has been an issue in the past. After Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, the conscience clause was enacted, which gave pharmacists “the right to refuse to perform certain services based on a violation of personal beliefs or values,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures website.

“I think that’s just wrong,” Hermeier said. “I think that women have the right to stop it [a pregnancy] if they want to.”

In 2006, The Washington Times said that lawmakers in half of the states have introduced bills that would allow pharmacists refuse to sell contraceptives and emergency contraceptives including Plan B.

States such as Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and South Dakota passed laws that granted pharmacists the right to refuse emergency contraceptives.

In 2008, Federal Judge Ronald Leighton ruled that pharmacists can refuse to sell Plan B in Washington state, the Seattle PI reported. However, the Washington’s Board of Pharmacy voted to prohibit pharmacists from refusing to sell Plan B in 2010.

Pharmacists for Life International is a nonprofit organization which supports pharmacists who refuse to sell Plan B. Their motto is “Let the gift of medicines promote life, not destroy it,” according to the website.

Pharmacists for Life International refers to Plan B as the “emergency abortion pill,” according to its website.

Munson said that Plan B is not an abortion pill.

Plan B works the same way as birth control in that it prevents the egg being released from the woman’s ovaries or prevents an egg being fertilized and attaching to the uterus, Munson said.

Plan B is not effective and will not cause an abortion once the egg is implanted on the uterine wall, according to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

“Doctors and scientists all agree that pregnancy starts when a fertilized egg implants on the side of the uterus,” Munson said. “Plan B prevents that from happening so the woman is never pregnant to begin with.”

Despite these national controversies, the staff at the Health Center has not heard any feedback from students or parents about selling Plan B, Splinter said.

Plan B is available to men as well, and students have to meet with a practitioner before receiving the emergency contraceptive for medication counseling and education on how to take it, Munson said.