The fight for sexual freedom didn’t end with Plan B approval

Column by Carrie Bass

Last month marked the one-year anniversary of federal approval of Plan B emergency contraception for over-the-counter sale. While folks everywhere should celebrate this historic and important step in sexual and reproductive freedom, it is necessary to continue to push for our rights in this area.

Access to Plan B continues to be limited by pharmacist refusals to dispense the drug and limited access for those under 18. The refusal of pharmacies and pharmacists to dispense Plan B is most harmful to individuals who are already hindered by socioeconomic factors.

Most middle- and upper-class citizens can order Plan B from the Internet or drive to a pharmacy that does sell Plan B. For those of restricted economic means, who are less likely to have access to birth control, contraceptives or general sexual health education, traveling to a distant locale may not be a possibility.

Access to Plan B is an even greater trial for minors, who are the victims of the ineffective abstinence-only policies in place in most public schools.

Nor is Plan B the only front on which the battle to restrict sexual and reproductive freedom is being fought. University clinics across the nation have seen a drastic rise in the cost of prescription birth control as a result of federal mandates. Sadly, though the Kernel reported on the impending rise in prescription birth control on UK’s campus last semester, few seemed to realize or react to this information.

The rise in prescription birth control in clinics on college campuses and in institutions like Planned Parenthood that offer financially based discounts is deeply troubling. There is a reason that these are the venues that have historically offered discounted prices: College students, citizens under 18 and citizens restricted by economic factors are the most at risk for unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, yet the least able to afford the astronomical prices of prescription birth control.

While access to prescription birth control faces a major setback, the right to an abortion in the first trimester as guaranteed by Roe v. Wade is being slowly chipped away by anti-choice programs and legislation.

Kentucky is one of the many states requiring a waiting period between the initial consultation and the actual procedure. During this time, women are given anti-choice literature and no information from a pro-choice perspective. No state requires that women be informed of the many health risks of carrying a pregnancy to term, and yet women are denied immediate access to a procedure that may be in the best interest of their physical and emotional well-being.

Finally, despite the recent discovery of a vaccination for the cancer-causing strains of human papillomavirus, the public remains largely unaware of the widespread nature of this virus and most insurance companies continue to deny coverage of the expensive vaccination shot. No test has been developed to detect HPV in men, though they can infect their partners, and men carrying certain strains of HPV are more at risk for testicular and prostate cancers.

Let’s be grateful for the fact that Plan B, even in its limited availability, is accessible, when it was not just a year ago. However, it is important not to forget that access to Plan B is just one part of one’s sexual health and reproductive freedom, which includes equal access to prescription birth control, ready access to a first-trimester abortion, freedom from sexually transmitted diseases and infections, and a complete sexual education.

Carrie Bass is an art history senior. E-mail [email protected]