April 1, 2002

C.U. Debates the Morning-After Pill

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One of the controversial subjects on campus is the option of providing emergency contraception (E.C.) at Gannett: Cornell University Health Services. Currently, Gannett offers a form of contraception commonly known as the morning after pill, which still raises debate today.

According to National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, approximately three million women become pregnant unintentionally every year and half of those pregnancies end in abortion.

Yet, surveys show that four out of five American women don’t know about the morning after pill.

The Women’s Capital Corporation, which makes Plan B, the brand of E.C. that Gannett prescribes, started a campaign in July 1999 to educate women about “birth control’s best kept secret,” said Mendy Andresen, the corporation’s account executive.

“The morning after pill is a very important option for women. Among women in their 20s and early 30s, half of all pregnancies are unwanted. It’s important that we reach that target audience,” Andresen said.

She estimated that the campaign has been launched successfully in 30 universities, including at Cornell.

“Women in a school setting should have just as much access as those in a professional setting,” Andresen said.

Dara Neuman ’03, a volunteer at Gannett, agrees with Andresen that it is important for college students to have access to the morning after pill.

“Something could go wrong; the condom could break,” Neuman said. “I don’t think unwanted children should be brought into the world and this is much better than an


In fact, some of the criticism of the morning after pill has come from those who say that taking it is exactly like having an abortion.

“Those who say this is an abortion don’t really understand how E.C. works,” said Sharon Dittman, Gannett’s associate director of community relations. “I think that [misinformation] is somewhat intentional on the part of those who are anti-choice.”

Plan B is essentially a high powered dose of birth control pills.

“It’s [a] progesten pill,” Andresen explained. “It delays ovulation or prevents fertilization and inhibits implantation of the egg. It is not effective if a woman is already pregnant. It’s not the same as RU-486, or the abortion pill, which is where I think some of the confusion may lie.”

“The morning after pill is not killing anything,” Neuman said.

Some people feel that the morning after pill encourages promiscuous behavior.

“It’s reducing the cost of sex,” said Joseph Sabia grad. “There’s no doubt that when you reduce the costs, people are going to do it more. It’s the same thing that we saw when condoms and birth control pills became more available. It’s spiritually painful to see guys and girls running around like whores, to watch men and

women really degrading themselves.”

However, Dittman insists that the morning after pill does not have that large of an effect on the amount of sexual intercourse that occurs on this campus.

“We are such complex creatures and what contributes to the decisions we make is as varied as the people we are. E.C. is really a minor thing in

comparison with all the things that go into [our decisions]. [B]ut a condom is no more likely to break for someone who is sleeping with someone they don’t know than who they do know,” she said.

Gannett also has programs to make sure that Cornell men and women are aware of the consequences of their decisions.

“It’s not like they’re handing out them out like candy,” Neuman said. “When someone goes in to get the pill, they also talk about ways to prevent [possible unintended pregnancy] from happening again. Gannett really tries to help things in the future and help educate women on this campus.”

Gannett literature points out that “emergency contraception is not as effective as using contraception on a regular basis.”

Dittman explained that when a woman comes in to get the morning after pill, a Gannett staff member “talks with students about the full range of options

of how to prevent pregnancy, including how to make abstinence work as a choice,” Dittman said.

Sabia believes that the morning after pill is not a good option for people.

“They’re acting as if there are only physical consequences to sex,” he said. “People are so desperate to find love, and they’re using their bodies to get what they want, or what they think they want. Some people say, who are you to judge but somebody’s got to say something about what’s good for young people. I think we have a sad culture on college campuses about sexual morality. They’re not caring for their souls. Somebody ought to care. I care.”

However, such protestations have had little effect on Gannett’s policy.

“We have been offering emergency contraception for over 20 years. Plan B is just the latest,” Dittman said. “We’re committed to providing people with the options to preventing pregnancy if that’s what they want to do.”

Archived article by Freda Ready