The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday February 3rd

How accessible are contraceptives on UNC's campus?

DTH Photo Illustration. Ella is an emergency contraceptive, to be taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex in order to prevent pregnancy.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. Ella is an emergency contraceptive, to be taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex in order to prevent pregnancy.

Contraceptives — including condoms, emergency contraception pills and birth control — can lead to safer sex and fewer accidental pregnancies. But some UNC students struggle to access them, whether it be because of cost, privacy or awareness. 

A 2017 study by the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual and reproductive health organization, found that the improved access and use of contraceptives leads to fewer unwanted pregnancies, and thus a lower rate of abortions. 

The study also found that public efforts to increase access to contraceptive methods often proves effective. 

Put simply, if college students have access to contraceptives, they are less likely to experience an accidental pregnancy, and potentially an abortion. 

UNC provides many of these supplies and they are available in many places on campus. 

Safer sex supplies are available for free at UNC Campus Health, the Student Stores Pharmacy and in the Student Union. Students can order, refill or get prescribed birth control through Campus Health.

A variety of emergency contraception pills can be purchased at Campus Health or the Student Stores Pharmacy. They are also available in the "Healthy Heels to Go" vending machines located in Rams Head Recreation Center and the Student Union. 

Farah Flowers, a residential advisor in Horton Residence Hall, said part of her job is to supply the students in her residential hall with support and resources. One of the ways she does this is in by helping them to access contraceptives. 

"I think it's important that we provide the means for people who don't want to get pregnant to not get pregnant," she said. 

Though RAs are not trained on directly providing students with contraceptives, they are trained to help students access resources through Campus Health, Flowers said.  

Campus Health also has a contraceptive request form on their website, through which students can receive safer sex supplies directly to their living spaces. 

Laura Saavedra Forero, co-president of the Campus Y and reproductive rights activist, is working to increase accessibility of contraceptives on campus.  

“I personally didn't even know that you could easily get them at different places on campus,” she said. “I still think that they're not as accessible as they can be.”

Saavedra Forero said students commonly struggle to access contraceptives for various reasons including cost, privacy and lack of supply.

On campus, emergency contraception can cost anywhere from $10 to $70. Working with a pharmacist for prescriptions or other needs through Campus Health has an additional convenience fee of $30.

Accessing birth control on campus can also be challenging, according to students. 

Alana York, a first-year at UNC, said that while she found contraceptives to be accessible on campus, she has been working for three weeks to transfer her preexisting prescription to the school pharmacy.

“It's been kind of difficult for me because they keep needing 'this information' and 'that information,'" she said. "It’s just really hard — I have not been able to switch it over. And I'm actually to the point of running out."

York said she believes all people on campus should have the right to easily access contraceptives. 

Saavedra Forero is hoping to establish a reproductive health branch through the Campus Y mutual aid pantry, located on the third floor. Currently, those who are food insecure can access meals and food through this pantry, but she hopes to soon supply free sexual health items, including emergency contraception pills, condoms and pregnancy tests. 

Beyond access, she said education and spreading information are important tools to promote sexual and reproductive health on campus. 

For more information on how to access contraceptives, students can email questions about safer sex supplies on campus to letstalkaboutit@unc.edu.

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