Submitted by Ty Bennett PSU student
This week is National Condom Week, and young people on college campuses across the country are distributing condoms, educating our peers on how to talk with partners about safer sex and staying healthy, talking about sexual and reproductive health and fighting for policies that protect their health and well-being.
As a college student, I know firsthand the real need for young people to have access to condoms. Every year, the United States reports approximately 20 million new sexually transmitted infections, half among young people ages 15–24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And in September, the CDC announced that cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis all increased to more than 2 million in 2016, reaching record numbers for the third year in a row.
Using a condom along with another method of birth control—such as the IUD, implant, shot or pill—is the best way to prevent both unintended pregnancy and STIs. That is why it’s important for everyone to have access to the full range of birth control methods.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit, which went into effect in 2012, most insurance plans now cover birth control without a copay. This benefit has helped millions of people gain access to reliable, affordable contraception.
Access to birth control is not controversial. It’s basic health care for millions of people: Nearly nine in 10 women of reproductive age will use contraception at some point in their lives, whether for family planning or other medical reasons like treating endometriosis.
But last October, the Trump administration took direct aim at birth control coverage for more than 62 million Americans, attempting to eliminate the ACA’s guarantee to no-copay birth control coverage regardless of where someone works or studies. The administration’s new exemptions would allow virtually any employer or school to deny coverage on religious or moral grounds.
The ACA already allowed religiously affiliated employers to refuse to pay for coverage, while ensuring that women could still get birth control coverage directly from health plans—a protection the Trump administration also eliminated.
This attempted rollback of access to affordable birth control coverage would negatively affect the lives of people across the country. In a 2017 survey, one-third of women voters said they could not afford prescription birth control costing more than $10. Before the ACA, oral contraceptives ran an out-of-pocket cost averaging between $10 and $50 a month.
So during National Condom Week, we’re doubling down on the #Fight4BirthControl because no matter the method, everyone should have access to protection against both STIs and unintended pregnancy, regardless of where they go to school or where they work. When people have access to condoms and the full range of birth control methods, we all benefit. Now more than ever, we must fight to make the full range of birth control methods more accessible, not less.
Planned Parenthood recently launched the #Fight4BirthControl campaign in a concerted effort to engage leaders in education, business and government to guard against the erosion of birth control access, and the Trump administration’s sustained attack on equal rights and people’s ability to fully participate in the workforce and pursue their dreams. We need everyone—business leaders, activists, college presidents and artists—to join the fight for reproductive rights.
Having access to birth control and being able to keep ourselves healthy means that we, as college students, have an active role in navigating our health and our future. University administrators should consider the facts and weigh the evidence about the benefits of birth control when they’re making decisions to protect or deny students’ access.
No one—not the president, not our bosses, not our campus administration—should have the power to decide what we do with our bodies and our lives. We will not stop until every person can get the health care they need, including birth control—no matter what. Get involved at PPAOregon.org.
PSU Senior majoring in women, gender and sexuality studies Ty Bennett serves as a legislative and electoral fellow for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon.