Following the presence of flamingos, penis-shaped objects sprung up on Bascom Hill last week. Similarly cheeky flyers have also graced campus buildings and caught students’ attentions.
The flyers are part of a campaign from the online birth control support network Bedsider, which aims to educate women between the ages of 18 to 29 about birth control options, Michelle Sweet, spokesperson for the Bedsider campaign in Madison, said.
“There have been way too many unplanned pregnancies,” Sweet said. “It just isn’t acceptable.”
The Bedsider campaign is part of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a private nonprofit organization based out of Washington D.C., Sweet said.
The Bedsider campaign began in Austin, Texas and has since spread to Madison in order to target college towns with a “cool culture,” Sweet said. The campaign focuses its advertising efforts around events like Freakfest and football games in order to reach as many students as possible, she said.
Bedsider does not provide birth control, but promotes available birth control options via its website, Sweet said. Bedsider also works with student organizations with similar causes, like Sex Out Loud, to organize fun events, she said.
“Nothing is preachy or crude,” Sweet said. “It’s all very implicit and very ‘wink-wink.’”
Sweet said Bedsider has been successful thus far due to its ability to reach students through social media.
Gerald Ryan, University Health Services director of clinical services, said Bedsider has been questionable with its agenda. UHS is concerned about the message the organization sends, he said.
Ryan said UHS believes Bedsider’s advertising is not appropriate. While UHS is supportive of women having more information available to them, the means of advertising that Bedsider has employed has been unacceptable, he said.
Ryan said the campaign’s connection to events with alcohol is inappropriate and many of the advertisements have been upsetting.
“The objectives of the campaign are good, more information is good, but our concern is that by trying to appear ‘edgy,’ they have paired their message with views that UHS can’t promote,” Ryan said.
UHS has an obligation to provide options to students, but students should understand the risk and ramifications of using birth control, Ryan said.
“We never talk people into it, and it’s important to know that no method is 100 percent effective,” Ryan said.
While birth control can help prevent unplanned pregnancies, it does so at a risk, Ryan said. The pill is known to cause migraines, especially for women already prone to them and using birth control could also increase the risk of stroke and that no form of birth control is protective against sexually transmitted infections, he said.
“No perfect pill exists,” Ryan said.
Many different forms of birth control are available, and UHS can provide information on all types of birth control including natural family planning, Ryan said.
The bottom line is making sure that information is available, Ryan said. UHS can provide recommendations to women concerning their specific needs, he said.
“It’s about making the best decision by being well-informed,” Ryan said.