Shippensburg University, PA-The content of college campus vending machines was far from newsworthy until sensationalist journalists got their noses into Cumberland Valley and got wind of Plan-B Emergency Contraceptive’s presence in Etter Health Center. Twenty five bones gets you the medication which is sitting between the pregnancy tests, the condoms, and of course the nasal decongestants. Nine-tenths of the time, it works every time, when used correctly within the first 24 hours.
The students themselves overwhelmingly asked to have the pill in the health center in a survey a few years back. While the FDA is poked and shoved into making a stink about it by pro-lifers, the vending machine is not accessible to the general public, only students who all meet the 17+ age requirement to buy the contraceptive legally. Now the Obama administration’s mandate requiring employers to provide access to birth control for their women employees has been deflected by cries of First Amendment violation by Catholics, republicans, and others. The compromise is that these institutions don’t have to provide it themselves, but their insurance companies do. Really? The insurance companies are going to be the ones doing the right thing here? Everyone knows insurance companies have absolutely no morals, just duct tape wrapped wallets.
The real issue, however, has nothing to do with religious beliefs, money, or women’s health. Our society needs to find a way to make youth and others more responsible so that they do not need emergency contraceptives. I heard a woman call in to Norman Goldman’s radio show on 760AM Colorado’s Progressive Talk last night who mentioned that an embryo is the last stage of developement which can be frozen. Goldman brushed that off, saying that Walt Disney was frozen too and that her reasoning is flawed. He’s right it shouldn’t matter who can be frozen and who cannot, although everyone could. In American society the age of adulthood and all of the assumed responsibility and independence that comes with it varies from family to family. The government recognizes different driving, gun ownership, and drinking ages, however the voting age of 18 is a constant. The assumption is that is the age of maturity according to the law. Is it arbitrary, or is there evidence that a certain stage of brain developement is generally completed then? I am not a doctor (I was an EMT-Basic), but I don’t feel qualified to determine that by myself. One thing that is clear is that everyone is different and developes at different rates and in different ways.
Back to the issue at hand, how can we ensure our citizenry and youth are responsible enough not to need emergency birth control? And does providing it make it harder to do so, due to the fact that they do have options if they have unprotected sex purposefully or unintentionally? I would like to see the need for medicines like Plan-B to be reduced, but I know society needs to work on having more normal contraceptive available to youth. While there is no age restriction for purchasing contraceptive such as condoms, there is one for Plan-B. Why?
As a society, our approach to eliminating unplanned pregnancies should be two-pronged; first we should do away with the age restriction for age restrictions like Plan-B and make free condoms, diaphragms, and preventive birth control pills more available to youth (while of course ensuring that parents are informed that their children are using these). Second we should continue to encourage abstinence–find a way to make it sexier, as well as keep our kids aware of the consequences such as STI’s and unplanned pregnancy via sex-ed classes and advertisements similar to the anti-drug ads. I see where the Catholics and republicans are coming from, but we cannot afford make contraceptives harder to acquire for our youth and even ourselves.