U. Utah Students Absent From Birth Control Price Debate

This story was written by Constance Yonashiro, Daily Utah Chronicle
A grassroots college movement opposed to the recent spike in birth control prices received a big break at the beginning of this month. But don't expect to find many University of Utah students championing the cause.

In response to complaints about the increase, Congressman Joseph Crowley, D-NY, introduced a bill to the House of Representatives on Nov. 6 that would restore reasonable pricing of contraceptives sold on college campuses.

"There have been thousands of petitions to restore access to affordable birth control," said Olivia Ortiz, the West Coast Campus Organizer for the Feminist Majority Foundation.

But Ortiz said that students in Utah have been strangely absent from the movement to restore discounts on birth control for college students.

"Many students are teaming up with their schools, calling for administrative help," Ortiz said. "We have campus leadership networks of 200 student groups -- however, there's not a single group in Utah."

The Prevention Through Affordable Access Act would make college campuses eligible to once again receive contraceptives at a lower cost. Since the feminist foundation began petitioning in the summer they have seen a domino effect of students who want to get involved, Ortiz said.

Discounts previously given to colleges for certain prescription drugs disappeared in January when Medicaid rules were changed, increasing the cost of contraceptives on campus.

"Due to the Deficit Reduction Act passed in 2005...and the changes it made in the Medicaid law, birth control prices skyrocketed on campuses across the nation," Ortiz said. "Prices are now three, four, even five times what it used to be."

Amanda Li, a junior in education who uses contraceptives, said the pricing for her birth control went up from $10 a month to about $30 a month.

"I did notice the price went up at the beginning of the year," she said. "But I still buy it from the school pharmacy and pay more. I do know a few of my friends who decided Planned Parenthood is just cheaper and go there now."

Because of the increase, students may resort to using less effective means to prevent pregnancies, which may result in an increase of unwanted pregnancies and possibly more abortions. Both could lead to even more controversy, said Vicki Judd, the medical director of the U's Student Health Center.

"The higher price is a problem. Students are thinking twice about what they want to take, and sometimes they'll choose to take nothing at all," Judd said. "We've seen a decrease in use (of birth control). I can't quantify for you, but we've definitely seen a decrease."

When contraceptive pricing first increased, students were often shocked and surprised, said Jeffrey Corless, a registered pharmacist at the Madsen Health Center Pharmacy. However, not many students have refused to buy their prescriptions, but almost all have said they have had to make adjustments to afford the higher prices.

"Whereas they might be getting three months at a time, now they may be getting only one month at a time now," Corless said. "That's all they can afford."

Judd stressed that a large number of students are affected by the price change.

"The American College Health (Association) does a survey which we participate (in), and about 37 to 39 percent of college students take birth control pills -- it's a lot," Judd said. "A lot of people don't want to get pregnant while they're in school. Students use contraceptives not only for birth control reasons...there are several conditions where you have to use birth control pills for hormone therapy."

For some women, being on birth control isn't an option, but a necessity.

"I have a friend ho has (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and so she has to be constantly on birth control otherwise she'll have problems having children later in life," said Emily Blair, a sophomore majoring in theater. "Birth control isn't a choice for her. It doesn't make sense that they would raise the prices for people on campus who don't really (have) much money anyways."
© 2007 Daily Utah Chronicle via U-WIRE

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