Lizzy Baker

VOX coordinator

Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood

This week, students at Western and around the nation are responding to the rising cost of birth control prices at college clinics. Congress changed a law last year which had previously allowed pharmaceutical companies to provide birth control pills at very low cost to certain health care providers. This inadvertently cut off college and university health clinics and some community health centers. Birth control prices have skyrocketed for over 3 million college students and roughly 750,000 low-income women since January. Many women returned to college this year to find their birth control has gone from $5 or $10 dollars to $40 or $50 dollars. In many cases there has been a 900% increase in price. Some college health centers have stopped providing birth control at all. For many women on a tight budget, this means birth control is now out of reach.

Students are learning that it wouldn't cost Congress anything to make birth control affordable again. Drug companies sold birth control at nominal prices to college clinics and safety net providers on their own. That is a private contract between the drug companies and the clinics, and does not involve the federal government. A small change in the law would permit drug companies to offer low-cost drugs once again and would restore access to affordable birth control on college campus.

Western women who obtain birth control from the Student Health Center are currently being affected by the raised prices to varying degrees depending on individual circumstances. These include the student's particular financial means, the type of birth control she uses, whether she has insurance, whether she wishes to involve her parents if she's on their insurance, and the availability of alternative providers. However, students are acknowledging a common experience beyond these individual factors. Those who wish to take responsibility for their reproductive health and futures might find this increasingly challenging. A rise in unintended pregnancies among college students and low-income women is among the consequences for the rise in birth control pricing.

Concerned students will be present on campuses around the country this week to raise awareness around the issue of affordable birth control. At Western, these include members of VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood. Although the Bellingham Planned Parenthood clinic is not affected by the change in the law, ensuring access to affordable birth control is a high priority for the organization.