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Emergency contraception available at Campus Health

MATTHEW ROBLES/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Alberta Hopkins, RNC, demonstrates a typical consultation for emergency contraception with a patient at the Women's Health Clinic last week.
By Georgeanne Barrett
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 7, 2004
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The Women's Health Clinic at Campus Health is trying to increase awareness among female students about the availability of emergency contraception.

Emergency contraception, or the so-called "morning-after" pill, is used to reduce the risk of pregnancy when taken after unprotected intercourse.

Kim Birmingham, a pharmacist in the Campus Health Center, said the pharmacy sees a consistent number of girls coming in to get prescriptions for emergency contraception filled every day.

Birmingham said on average, six prescriptions are filled each day. Last week, the pharmacy filled 28 prescriptions. She explained some people fill extra prescriptions to avoid hassles in the future, and said the pharmacy seems to fill more prescriptions after long weekends and breaks.

"As people become more comfortable, and girls know more from their doctors, the numbers increase," Birmingham said.

Campus Health after-hours phone number: 570-7898

The emergency contraception costs $20 at the Campus Health pharmacy.

Earlier this year, organizations such as the Feminist Majority Foundation, a national organization that promotes women's rights, were trying to get the Food and Drug Administration to approve a form of emergency contraception, Plan B, for over-the-counter status.

According to the Feminist Majority Foundation Web site, the FDA rejected Plan B's over-the-counter status despite the FDA advisory panel's vote of 23-4 in favor of making the pill available.

Birmingham said she does not foresee emergency contraception being available over-the-counter any time in the near future. She also said she would support over-the-counter status as long as people were educated about it.

"Being educated properly would be my biggest hurdle, since it doesn't protect against STDs and AIDS," Birmingham said. "I don't think it should be on the shelf like cough syrup. It should be something behind the counter so you could get counseling from a pharmacist."

Alberta Hopkins, a nurse in the Women's Health Clinic, said a prescription could be written for women who make an appointment and come in to see a nurse.

Hopkins also said the pill can be prescribed for up to 120 hours, or five days, after intercourse, but it is most effective when taken within 72 hours.

"The earlier the better," Hopkins said. "We want people to know it's available."

Hopkins said despite the FDA decision not to approve the pill for over-the-counter status, she hopes someday the FDA will reconsider.

"Hopefully it will be available someday," Hopkins said. "Hopefully birth control will be over-the-counter too."

Hopkins said emergency contraception is used as a two-pill dose, taken after a meal.

Pamphlets explaining emergency contraception are available in the Women's Health Clinic, and women can also obtain a prescription after hours and on weekends and holidays by calling the after-hours phone number.

Shayne Thompson, a physiology junior, was glad to know Campus Health is able to prescribe emergency contraception and has known someone who had to use it.

"I think it should be accessible if you get the proper knowledge," she said.

Owen Hurd, a geosciences junior, said he thought it was OK Campus Health was providing prescriptions, but thinks people need to be in control of their actions.

"I've always felt there are only a couple situations that it's acceptable, like rape," Hurd said.

The Feminist Majority Foundation's Web site estimates emergency contraception has the potential to prevent half of the unintended pregnancies and the 800,000 abortions in the United States when taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex, a condom breaking, forgotten birth control or sexual assault.

The after-hours phone number for Campus Health is 570-7898. The number should be used when the Campus Health Center is not open.

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