Last week, Dudley Coe Health Center announced that it would no longer provide students with free birth control after losing its contract with its contraceptive provider, Organon. This turn of events was sudden and unexpected, and has caused Bowdoin students?both women and men?a great deal of anxiety.
A significant percentage of Bowdoin women rely on the health center for their birth control needs. In 2006, the health center handed out enough Desogen, Cyclessa, and NuvaRings to supply 331 women with a full year of birth control. Because abruptly ending a hormone regimen often causes adverse side effects, the College should treat the contract loss as a pressing community health concern.
To its credit, the health center has been proactive in its response. By collaborating with other Maine schools to alleviate the rising cost of birth control medication by looking into bulk-purchasing, the staff at Dudley Coe has taken the first step toward a long-term answer to this setback. We applaud them for recognizing the exigency of the problem, and urge them to formulate a sustainable fix as soon as possible.
By providing free birth control, the health center had been giving Bowdoin students an outstanding deal?one not available to students at many peer colleges. We appreciate that now more than ever. The result of such an extraordinary system has been that a large number of women now count on the health center for birth control in terms of cost, confidentiality, and convenience. These women now find themselves at a loss.
Many students here operate on limited budgets, and cannot afford to buy birth control at full price. For some, even an insurance co-pay is problematic. Many women would prefer not to use their parents' health insurance to pay for birth control for privacy reasons. Finally, on a birth control regimen, where timing and consistency are crucial, the convenience of having a source for birth control on campus should not be underestimated.
Under such circumstances as these, a short-term solution is just as critical as a long-term one.
The health center has been forced into a tough position, and its staff are certainly not to blame for the predicament at hand. Still, we feel it is vital that Dudley Coe resume its program of free birth control until the end of the semester. (While Cyclessa will be available for free through May, this is the least popular brand of birth control among Bowdoin women, according to health center records?and suddenly switching types of birth control can cause unpleasant side effects.) As much as the College was caught off-guard by this change, the students are the ones who must adjust to these new conditions. Because the change happened so abruptly, we feel that continuing to provide contraceptives without charge while students re-evaluate their options is the course that is both fairest and safest.
We realize that with the sharp increase in wholesale prices, offering such a service will be expensive for the college?we estimate between $20,000 and $30,000. We feel as though this case warrants discretionary spending, and we are confident in the College's ability to procure necessary funds.
This weekend's meeting of the Board of Trustees presents a unique opportunity to address this issue, and matters of funding in particular. The Trustees ought to work with College administrators to ameliorate this problem that has been untimely pressed upon us.
The editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient's editorial board. The editorial board is comprised of Bobby Guerette, Beth Kowitt, Anna Karass, Steve Kolowich, and Anne Riley.