Guest column: Affordable birth control in college a key to success

University health centers have for decades been a convenient and affordable resource for students searching for health care, including important medications such as contraceptives. Students could walk in to the clinic before or after class, consult with a medical professional about a variety of contraceptives and go on their way. With the cost of some contraceptives as low as $10 a month, the prices were affordable enough for the average student’s limited budget.

Earlier this year, the federal Deficit Reduction Act changed all that.

Before the act, college health centers were able to provide these affordable contraceptives to students because they were classified as "safety net" providers, and pharmaceutical companies sold their products to college health centers at discounted prices. In 2005 Congress mandated health centers to purchase birth control at higher prices in an attempt to cut taxes.

Since January, students have seen astronomical increases in the price of contraceptives. Monthly supplies of popular birth control pills, such as Ortho-Tricyclen Lo, that students could previously buy for $10 at the UH Health Center now cost $35. Other brands now cost as much as $50 a month.

College students can’t afford these prices, and they shouldn’t be forced to make difficult decisions about their futures because of an unintended consequence of a complex change in federal legislation.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Congress has known about this problem all year, and they have done nothing about it. The solution is simple; let college health centers buy birth control at discounted prices so students can access affordable birth control.

Affordable contraceptives are necessary to college students’ success. We’re in college to prepare for productive careers as bankers, accountants, doctors, social workers, lawyers and more. Most college students don’t feel that college is the time in their life to start a family and our limited budgets shouldn’t keep us from preventing that from happening. Students are paying for everything from books to apartment rent; they should not have to make budget-breaking decisions to pay for essential items like birth control, or worse, engage in risky behavior that could result in an unintended pregnancy.

College is a time to focus on academic success; distractions can be detrimental to academic achievement and the attainment of the goal of every college student: graduating with the degree of their choice to begin the career of their choice. I don’t know of any other bigger distraction than the fear, or the occurrence, of an unintended pregnancy.

Congress probably did not intend to create such a burden for college students, but that is the result of its actions. The good news is the solution is simple and we, as students, can help solve the problem. We have to let Congress know that college students need affordable birth control. Stop by the VOX table at the University Center Satellite today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to call Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, at (202) 224-9522 and let her know Congress must change this rule and restore affordable birth control prices for college students.

McDaniel, a political science senior, can be reached via [email protected]

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