Correction Appended: An editorial in Tuesday’s edition of the Daily should have said the University of Wisconsin birth-control ban was passed by the state Assembly and is pending in the state Senate. The bill only explicitly addresses emergency contraception, although Wisconsin Attorney General Peggy Lautenschlager said it could be interpreted to include other forms of birth control.
When University of Wisconsin students left for summer break, they had full access to both birth control and emergency contraceptives – as well as related counseling and therapy services – through their university. But as students return to campus this fall, they will find these rights no longer exist.
The University of Wisconsin Birth Control Ban, which the state enacted in June, prohibits the prescribing, dispensing and advertising of all birth control and emergency contraceptives, even for women that have been raped or sexually assaulted. Despite the fact that most students are legal adults, any attempt to obtain birth control on campus will now be denied. This ban – driven by antiquated ideas – is a dangerous limitation on women’s liberties, as well as a troubling abuse of state power.
Wisconsin state Rep. Dan LeMahieu (R-Oostburg), said he introduced the bill because “dispensing birth control and emergency contraceptives leads to promiscuity.” This belief has been debunked by statistics that consistently show the use of birth control and promiscuity have no correlation. In fact, emergency contraceptives help prevent more than 35,000 unintended births and 800,000 abortions each year.
Considering that emergency contraceptives are only effective 72 hours after unprotected sex, this bill endangers women’s health and increases the likelihood of both unwanted pregnancy and abortion. While it can be argued that students can always obtain EC at independent pharmacies, those students who attend University of Wisconsin campuses in more rural areas may find it difficult to do so, as there may be no pharmacies within a convenient distance. In addition, because not all students have a health care plan that covers birth control or EC, some count on their university health system to prescribe and fill prescriptions at low cost. By denying women access to both long-term birth control, as well as EC, this bill will force many women to either have abortions or carry an unplanned pregnancy.
Wisconsin is the first state to impose a birth control ban on its college students, and the passage of the bill sets a dangerous precedent for college students nationwide. State legislatures should not intervene with public university policy; that job should be left to student leaders, faculty members and administrators. University affiliates – not politicians sitting on state legislatures – are best able to decide what policies a university should follow. If politically motivated legislators start using public universities as another battlefield in the culture wars, education will suffer.
This ban is an attack on women’s rights – and more specifically an attack on the rights of college women. Neither University of Wisconsin students nor administrators should tolerate this invasive legislation, and both groups should work hard to secure its repeal. The serious implications of the ban should serve as a wake-up call to college students across the nation, as we come closer to confronting the issue of reproductive freedom in this country. It should not, and cannot, be considered acceptable for politicians to deny consenting adults access to safe, legal medications