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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA can battle birth control costs

    An unwelcome and tough lesson many students learn in college is how to budget – brand-name or generic cereal, toothpaste or beer, birth control or groceries.

    Though the art of frugality is one that most UA students have to teach themselves, the Sophie’s choice of birth control over other necessities is a relatively new dilemma. Thanks to the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, federal legislation that went into effect in 2007, university health centers are now exempt from the price controls that have kept birth control prices low in the past.

    Although some lawmakers, as The New York Times reported in November, seemed as surprised as anyone to find that this oversight had occurred, other groups such as the eminent Abstinence Clearinghouse had seen fit to take the opportunity to dust off old arguments about “”sex without consequences”” and the usual hysteria that accompanies the thought of legal adults engaging in safe sex. What this debate masks, however, is a greater problem: Even in our advanced society, women still bear a disproportionate amount of the cost when it comes to reproductive responsiblity.

    While the UA does make an admirable effort to send the message to students that safe sex is everyone’s responsibility (remember those SexTalk fliers in your mailbox when you lived in a residence hall freshman year?), even the most responsible men end up paying far less than women to prevent pregnancy. The average cost of a male condom ranges from 20 cents to $2.50, or free if you attend one of the SexTalk forums in your dorm’s lobby. Compare that with the $20 a month that the Campus Health Service charges for Cyclessa, one of the cheaper forms of birth control available to UA students. Students who use different brands are in worse shape, paying $41.40 for NuvaRing or $63.60 for Loestrin Fe24.

    Decide to take your chances and the condom breaks? Plan B, or the “”morning after pill,”” can range from $10 to $35 for one dose, and is only 75 to 89 percent effective. Need to terminate a pregnancy? The Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit reproductive health organization, reported the average cost of a surgical abortion with the fetus at 10 weeks’ gestation as $372 – and also noted that 74 percent of women pay for abortions with their own money. Preventative measures for women are far more expensive than for men, and retroactive options like Plan B or an abortion are astronomically expensive. The financial burden from both falls disproportionately on women.

    Should all men pay for their girlfriend’s pills every month? That kind of financial decision is unique to each couple, though it is a worthwhile discussion to have no matter who ends up footing the bill.

    The university itself would do well to search for ways to better subsidize contraception for all students, however. One of the functions of a university is to provide an environment for students to build a foundation for their adult lives. Shouldn’t that include providing students who are mature enough to be concerned with contraception with the resources to protect themselves and their partners? Post-graduation students are on their own. By that time, however, most of them are working, something not all undergraduates do. Why not add it as a $1 fee, applicable each semester, for students to pay? The current UA student population stands at 37,217. That fee could potentially pay for nearly 2,000 months of Cyclessa – or buy thousands of condoms.

    All right, this will probably never work. Parents paying for school would refuse to subsidize the promiscuity of students, and the campus would be in an uproar. It’s easy to think, though, of other ways the UA could cut some costs to keep the price of birth control low. Instead of building another “”Whipped,”” the school could put that money toward promoting sexual health. Maybe they could take it out of the UofA Bookstore revenue – those obscene markups could finally be harnessed for the good of the student body!

    It may seem a little bit silly, in a spring filled with budget reductions and hiring freezes, to suggest that the UA shoulder yet another student financial obligation – but the university already funds its health center and distributes SexTalk fliers in the dorms. Clearly, this school has a reputation for compassion and concern about students’ sexual health. It should take that concern just a bit further, and finally put its money where its mouth is.

    Sarah Devlin is a sophomore majoring in English and political science. She can be reached at

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