Content Warning: Sexual assault and its psychological effects are discussed in this article.
In America, women’s and reproductive health is in an uncertain state. Abortion clinics close and reopen without warning, birth control prices shift rapidly and sex education is at best problematic and at worst nonexistent. Fortunately, Brandeis provides a safe haven from most threats to reproductive health. Free condoms are regularly given out at events and birth control is extremely cheap or free on Brandeis health insurance plans. Groups like SSIS provide sex positive education and advice to people of all genders and sexual orientations. That being said, Brandeis’ protections for reproductive health are not perfect.
Brandeis’ Health Center provides Plan B Emergency Contraception, or the “morning after” pill, to students at a reduced cost. This is fantastic, considering the fact that over-the-counter Plan B can cost up to $55, which is five hours’ worth of wages from most on-campus jobs. The issue is that the reduced-cost Plan B is only available during the Health Center’s business hours. Most Brandeis students know that the Health Center’s 9-6, Monday through Friday business hours can be frustrating for students with a full class schedule. However, Brandeis students usually find ways to pick up their prescriptions or make doctor’s appointments without too much hassle. But the morning after pill is different.
To be fully effective, Plan B must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. It is at its most effective when taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. Given when parties happen, it’s safe to assume that most unprotected or unplanned sex at Brandeis happens over the weekend. This means that Brandeis students who have unprotected sex (or whose birth control fails) have to wait until the next Monday to receive Plan B at an affordable cost. For students who have unprotected sex on Friday, this comes very close to the 72 hour mark. Even though Plan B taken on Monday will most likely stop an unplanned pregnancy, the sheer anxiety of having to wait to take the pill will probably cause many Brandeis students to shell out the $55 for the drug store version, if they have the money on hand.
When discussing emergency contraception, especially in a university setting, it is essential to acknowledge the significant possibility of sexual assault. Plan B is a very common means by which rape survivors avoid unplanned pregnancy. Receiving medical and mental health treatment as a sexual assault survivor is almost always incredibly stressful and traumatic. Forcing sexual assault survivors to either wait to take the morning after pill or pay a ridiculous price for it adds to that stress. Lack of access to affordable emergency contraception causes rape survivors to face the possibility of an unplanned pregnancy for an extended and unnecessary period of time. Providing a means by which rape victims can receive Plan B shortly after their assault helps ease some of the stress and trauma of sexual assault. Especially when Brandeis students are raped by other students or assaulted on the Brandeis campus, the school has a moral responsibility to make their treatment and recovery as easy as possible.
In Massachusetts, Plan B is over-the-counter. The ease of access to full price Plan B makes it feasible for Brandeis to solve its imperfect emergency contraception system. It might be possible for an office or organization besides the Health Center to provide it on weekends. If that isn’t doable, Brandeis could provide financial compensation to students who buy full price Plan B at the drugstore. Either of these options would greatly ease the distress of Brandeis students who are sexually assaulted, have unprotected sex or whose birth control fails.