Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


“Morning after” pill strikes controversial chord

Love it or hate it, your campus health service offers the “morning after” pill.

The University of Wisconsin’s University Health Services is among the 52 percent of health services in college campuses nationwide that offers women emergency contraceptive pills, commonly referred to as the “morning after” pill.

Susan K. McCarthy, assistant professor in the department of health, physical education and recreation at Eastern Michigan University, recently reported these findings in the Journal of American College Health.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, McCarthy surveyed 358 health centers nationwide in the spring of 1999. Her current statistics, which state that 52 percent of colleges offer emergency contraception, are up from her own 1996 study, when she discovered that 35 percent of campuses offered the pills.

The decision to offer emergency contraception at UW’s health services was, in the words of Dr. Scott Spear, Director of Clinical Services at UHS, a “no-brainer.”

“We saw it as part of the overall comprehensive reproductive health services we already offered,” Spear said.

He added that while brand-name emergency contraception, such as Plan B or Preven, has only been FDA-approved for the last couple of years, UHS has been offering emergency contraceptive options for over seven years, through the use of high levels of FDA-approved birth control pills such as Alesse.

Plan B, the brand of emergency contraception currently prescribed at UHS, is a set of two progestin pills that are taken 12 hours apart. The pills must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

Spear said the pills prevent pregnancy in a number of ways. First, the high dose of progestin disrupts hormonal levels in the body and prevents ovulation in much the same way as birth control pills. If the egg has already been released, emergency contraception prevents fertilization from occurring and may disrupt the implantation of the egg to the uterine lining.

According to UHS’s website, “The emergency contraceptive pills do not produce an abortion, nor do they interrupt an established pregnancy. Emergency contraceptive pills will not work if you are already pregnant.”

Richard Ihenfeld, a pharmacist at UHS, said the pharmacy regularly distributes Plan B. He said on a typical Monday, after weekend sexual activity is high, he fills about 10 prescriptions, and that number dwindles to about one prescription filled on a typical Friday.

Ihenfeld said if a woman has had unprotected sex and wishes to receive emergency contraception, she can call the main line of UHS.

A UW junior, who wished her name to be withheld, used the “morning after” pill during her freshman year. Although she was on the birth control pill when she had unprotected intercourse, she had just gone on it, so was fearful that it was not yet effective.

“I was scared about pregnancy, so I just took it,” she said. She was given nausea pills, so she only experienced mild discomfort after taking the emergency contraceptive. Nausea — often extreme — is a common side effect of the high levels of hormones ingested.

“I would recommend taking it if you had to, but I would recommend not putting yourself in that situation in the first place” she said. “Don’t rely on it, and definitely use another form of birth control.”

The student said she believes emergency contraception is an option women should have and is glad it is offered at UHS, but she also stressed the importance of using birth control to prevent a pregnancy scare in the first place.

“I didn’t really have too many conflicting morals about taking it,” she said. “I was just mad I put myself in the situation where I had to resort to that.”

Campuses across the country choose to offer or not offer emergency contraceptive use in their health services for varying reasons; however, the most common reason not to offer emergency contraception is a university’s religious affiliation.

Father Mathie, Director of University Ministry at Marquette University in Milwaukee, a Catholic-affiliated school, put it this way: “The teaching of the Catholic Church says that from the moment of conception to natural birth, we are not to interfere. There isn’t anything you would take the morning after that isn’t an abortive measure.”

Kristen Horne, a member of Students Defending Life, a branch of St. Paul’s Catholic Center on the UW campus, is likewise uneasy about emergency contraceptive options. She said she believes UHS should not offer it.

“It’s sex without consequences,” Horne said. “I think society makes it seem like such a great thing, but they don’t think about the possible psychological affects.”

“It just scares me because I don’t think it’s perceived to be a big deal,” she added. “It’s so easy to get, and it can have such a large effect on the woman.”

Horne stated her belief that there are better options for women than the use of emergency contraception. She suggested women use the plethora of counseling services available to students rather than making a drastic decision.

However, Spear believes in emergency contraception. He said, “To my way of thinking, there is nothing controversial about this method. It should be widely available. It’s just like the birth control pill; it works the same way. The religious argument, I just don’t buy.”

Another UW junior, who also took the “morning-after” pill during her freshman year after a condom fell off, also feels emergency contraception is a good thing and should be readily available for students.

“It’s really better to take that pill than to worry,” she said. “It made me really sick and I wouldn’t want to do it again, but if worse came to worse, I would.”

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