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Students Campaign for Birth Control

By Alice E. M. Underwood, Crimson Staff Writer

Hundreds of Planned Parenthood condoms labeled “Proper Attire: Required for Entry” awaited more than 60 students at Ticknor Lounge yesterday for the Campus Contraceptive Campaign Kickoff.

Organized by Harvard Students for Choice, the event marked the start of a nationwide push for free contraceptive access for all women under the new federal health care reform—a goal that would effectively eliminate all co-pays for birth control.

“This would revolutionize access to birth control in this country—not just for people in this room, but for millions of women across the country,” said guest speaker Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The health care bill adopted last year stipulates coverage of preventive care for women, and a government-appointed panel will rule on the types of preventive care to be covered, according to Richards.

“This is a basic economic, health care, and social justice issue,” she said. “It’s important to weigh the cost of this against the 750,000 pregnant teenagers a year—the highest unintended pregnancy rate in the Western world.”

Although controversy surrounds some areas of reproductive health, Richards said that people on either side of the abortion debate have gotten behind the movement for universal contraceptive access. The investment in providing free birth control, she said, would save the government money that is now spent on unintended pregnancies, pregnant teenagers, and other forms of maternal care.

College students play key roles in advocacy and outreach to the politicians involved in making these decisions, according to Richards.

“Members of Congress are sick of hearing from me, but they’re very interested in what young people have to say,” she said.

“This room could start the campaign amongst colleges nationwide if the group of you gathered together here worked to figure out the campaign on campus and beyond,” said Gina Glantz, a former fellow at the Institute of Politics and chair of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Leah Reis-Dennis ’13, a member of the Students for Choice board, said that Harvard students are already working to get the movement off the ground.

“It’s up to us to use our position of privilege as students at Harvard, a university with so many resources, to stand up for our reproductive rights, as well as the rights and health of women who aren’t in a position to advocate for themselves,” she said.

Members of SFC will accompany the Harvard Democrats to campaign in New Hampshire over the weekend. In addition to the Dems, groups including Peer Contraceptive Counselors and Latinas Unidas have already signed on, and SFC plans to reach out to other organizations on campus and nationwide to take part.

“This is for anyone interested in working on shaping a big campaign that could have national significance” Reis-Dennis said.

—Staff writer Alice E.M. Underwood can be reached at aeunderw@fas.harvard.edu.

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