Taking Aim at Student Sex

Wisconsin legislators approve a bill barring campus health centers from dispensing the "morning after" contraception pill.
June 20, 2005

This should stop them from having sex.

The Wisconsin Assembly approved a bill last week that would bar student health centers on all University of Wisconsin campuses from advertising, prescribing or dispensing an emergency contraception pill. The "morning after" pill, which is designed for women to take when condoms break or other forms of birth control somehow fail, provides a very high dose of progestin that prevents ovulation or fertilization, effectively ending any possibility of a pregnancy.

In that way, it gives college students some reassurance that having sex will not dramatically alter their lives. And that was part of what troubled the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Daniel LeMahieu, a Republican, who believes that the availability of the “Plan B” pill encourages casual sex.

"Are we going to change the lifestyle of every UW student? No," LeMahieu told the Associated Press. "But we can tell the university that you are not going to condone it, you are not going to participate in it, and you are not going to use our tax dollars to do it."

The measure, which faces a tougher road in the state Senate and a threatened veto by the governor, Jim Doyle, has also won the backing of antiabortion groups in the state.

Campus health officials scoff at the notion that cutting back on the availability of the morning after pill will, in turn, encourage students to cut back on sex.

"This is an age group where they’re sexually active, and with or without this tool they’re going to remain sexually active,” says Susan Crowley, director of prevention services for the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s health services division. Supporters of the Wisconsin legislation argued that it “promotes increased sexual activity, but there’s no research that shows that it does.”

Crowley said that if the legislation were to pass, students who were no longer able to get emergency contraception from campus health centers, where most students have their health insurance, would probably end up just paying more by turning to off-campus providers.

But the measure could also discourage students from using such contraception, resulting either in more unwanted pregnancies or, conceivably, more abortions, opponents of the measure argue.


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