Tulane Student Health Center now provides free emergency contraceptives

Shahamat Uddin, Intersections Editor

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The Tulane Student Health Center (SHC) began providing free emergency contraceptives at its on-campus pharmacy Nov. 21.

“Our decision on this was based on the need Students United for Reproductive Justice highlighted in their recent work to increase access to emergency contraception,” Scott Tims, assistant vice president of Campus Health, said. “We undertook this initiative to support the work SURJ is doing around reproductive justice. We wanted to be supportive to a need they highlighted and to remove barriers to access that students may have to EC.”

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This development with the Tulane SHC came just two weeks after SURJ president LaKia Williams initiated the Big Easy EC program to provide free EC for the Tulane community. Now, Tulane and Loyola students can walk into the pharmacy on the third floor of the Student Health Center and receive free EC during open business hours. Students are not required to have a health insurance plan nor do they need a prescription to access the EC. The pills provided by the SHC and SURJ contain levonorgestrel, the active ingredient in Plan B, making the products clinically similar. 

“I just met with Dr. Tims in one of our bi-weekly meetings, and he said that the Health Center had been thinking about providing EC before, but they had never gotten around to it and then once we started our program, he kind of just had an epiphany and thought we [SHC] might as well do it as well,” Williams said. 

While the SHC will now be providing free EC during its business hours, SURJ’s Big Easy EC program will continue to be in effect for the Tulane community to use 24/7. 

“The only thing that will change with SURJ is that when people ask us for EC during the day, when the Student Health Center is open, we will refer them to the pharmacy, but if they don’t want to interact with anyone at the pharmacy, they can still use us,” Williams said. 

Beyond the advantage of complete anonymity, users of the Big Easy EC will no longer be encouraged to provide a $10 donation because the SHC now will consistently provide the EC. 

From the launch of SURJ’s Big Easy EC program to the recent development of free EC through the SHC, this resource has been largely praised by the Tulane community. According to SURJ’s survey sent to Big Easy EC users — to which 86% responded — more than 59% said they would not have been able to access EC without SURJ’s program, and about 73% rely on financial aid to attend their university.

An anonymous user responded that “With such a busy school schedule and problems finding or accessing emergency contraceptives, this service was a life saver and allowed me to continue with life obligations not having to stress about a possible pregnancy. That would suck, especially during finals.”

“This was so fast and easy, I’m still in shock. Texted back right away and came to my dorm immediately! So sweet and friendly!” said another anonymous user.

Of the 86% of Big Easy EC users that took the survey, 100% responded that they would recommend the Big Easy EC program to a friend. 

“One of the things that makes it exciting is that we live in Louisiana, where access to reproductive health services is not nearly as easy as it is in other places, and other places that students at Tulane come from,” said Dr. Clare Daniel, administrative assistant professor at Newcomb Institute and faculty advisor to SURJ.

“Programs like these ensure that people can make the decisions that are right for them for their sexual and reproductive lives … [this is] a credit to the students and LaKia and SURJ, and it’s also really impressive of the Health Center to be so responsive to what’s going on on campus.”