Despite controversy, the College’s Health Services and Planned Parenthood continue to stand behind the decision to make the morning-after pill available to students.
Plan B is the emergency contraceptive pill offered at Health Services. It prevents pregnancy by 89 percent if taken within 72 hours of contraceptive failure or unprotected intercourse.
Up until Plan B was made available four years ago, Preven was offered, which had only a 75 percent effective rate and more side effects.
“Safety is our number one concern,” Janice Vermeychuk, associate director of Health Services, said. The staff of Health Services and Planned Parenthood are happy to have a pill that was more effective and healthier for the students. Plan B only contains one hormone, causing fewer side effects than Preven, which cause two. According to Vermeychuk, there have been no reports of side effects by any of the college students who have taken Plan B.
The Plan B pill has been called the “nation’s best kept secret” with reasonable cause, not only for its effectiveness, but also for the lack of awareness about it, both nationally and in the campus community, but a community one at the College.
“I don’t think the word is getting out about it,” Janice Vermeychuk said. “We have repeaters; we do see the same people coming in.”
Vermeychuk thinks if more people knew the pill was offered, there would be a greater variety of students coming in for it.
Vermeychuk compares the situation to an emergency phone list. “Unless you really need it at that moment, you don’t think about it,” she said. To try to raise awareness, one ad per semester is placed in The Signal about the pill and e-mails are sent out from Health Services.
Currently, there is a lot of buzz about the morning-after pill. In Dallas, a pharmacist at a local drug store refused to fill a rape victim’s prescription for the morning-after pill. He thought it was immoral to provide anyone with a pill that would prevent her from getting pregnant.
Situations similar to this one occur because of misconceptions.
“People think it’s an abortive pill like RU-486. It isn’t,” Vermeychuk said. It is an emergency contraception that prevents fertilization and implantation. The pill will have no effect if implantation has already occurred.
This misconception affects other colleges throughout the nation. Some schools do not offer the pill at all because they “think it’s very controversial,” Vermeychuk said. “They’re nervous.”
In the near future, the morning-after pill may be available over-the-counter in pharmacies. With this comes speculation that women will become more careless because of this “safety net.”
“Women have to remember there is risk with Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) as well,” Vermeychuk said. The pill does not prevent the woman from contracting infections or disease; it only helps to prevent pregnancy.
Both Planned Parenthood and Health Services encourage students to use their services as everything is completely confidential, even pregnancy and STI treatments. The centers do keep a log of each student who comes in for the pill in case there are recalls by the providers, however, no one else has access to the information.
“We have parents calling all the time for medical results,” Vermeychuk said. “Information is privileged. We are bound to privacy by the code of ethics of our profession.” Students are assured that they are the only ones with access to their medical information.
If a student needs Plan B, an appointment must be made with Health Services or Planned Parenthood. There, a nurse practitioner will discuss the situation with her, explain how the pill works, and help her to arrange STI or HIV treatment if the intercourse had been with a stranger. Birth control is also discussed, and if the student does not currently have a method, Planned Parenthood assists her in obtaining one.
Plan B costs $10 and can be taken within 5 days of intercourse. The longer a woman waits, the less the rate of affectiveness. It is most effective if taken within 72 hours.
The pill should not be mistaken as a regular form of birth control. It is to be administered in emergency situations and does not prevent the transmission of STIs or HIV. “The more times you put yourself at risk, the higher your chances are,” Vermeychuk said.
Planned Parenthood is open Tuesdays and Fridays and Health Services is open Monday through Friday. If students need Plan B during times when these services are not available, the Health Services Web site (tcnj.edu/~hlthserv/emergencycontraception.html) offers information regarding alternative methods of receiving the pill.
Vermeychuk says it is more expensive through the services outside of the College, however, “in the long run, it is cheaper than having an abortion or a baby.”