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A new bill for the “pill”

Many women seeking birth control have faced higher prices on their contraceptive prescriptions since a provision in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.

According to Planned Parenthood’s Affordable Birth Control Issue Brief, the Act lifted government subsidies on birth control on college campuses, causing “the pill” to cost significantly more than in previous years.

Although Mills students are covered by either Basic Medical Care or the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (also known as SHIP), Kim LaPean, communications manager for University Health Services at UC Berkeley, expressed concern about the effects of the Deficit Reduction Act on insurance premiums.

“For insured populations, such as Mills and UC Berkeley where insurance is mandatory, contraceptives are covered. However, the elimination of deeply discounted contraceptives available to health centers has increased costs significantly, and the impact will lead to higher insurance premiums,” LaPean said.

With these issues in mind, and in the wake of the recent Reproductive Justice training on campus, organizations such as Mills’ chapter of Choice USA, UC Berkeley’s Tang Center, and Planned Parenthood, are concerned about the impact of such legislation, and how students are affected by government decisions concerning women’s health.

“Women on college campuses have had to make decisions that they shouldn’t have to, such as deciding between filling their birth control prescription or buying other things, like groceries,” said Daniella Matthews-Trigg, co-president of Choice USA at Mills.

Edith Sargon, national field director of Choice USA, said that she believed that the “government should let women take the lead and have a say in all the things that play a role in their reproductive destinies.”

Sargon attributed the legislation to “unintentional language that no longer gave money to restore discounts provided by drug companies.”

She noted more recent legislation, called the Prevention through Affordable Access Act, intended to solve the problem of high contraceptive prices for students. According to Sargon, the bill “was supported by Joseph Crowley in the House and Senator Obama in the Senate.”

She called the new bill a “no-cost solution that wouldn’t affect the federal budget.” and said, “there is no money involved here, let’s just make this happen.”

She described the role of students in Choice USA’s campaign for the Prevention through Affordable Access Act through “gathering petition signatures, passing resolutions through student government, meeting in districts with local representatives, and meeting with campus administration to encourage Congress.”

Although Mills women seem interested in the issues surrounding Reproductive Justice, a senior policy consultant at Berkeley’s Health Science and Services admitted “In talking to the student health directors at their meetings, they haven’t really discussed it as a group, though I have heard individuals with concerns.”

It has also been a struggle to get women actively involved on campus, according to co-president of Mills’ Choice USA, Bethan Lamb.

“It’s one thing to get them to sign a petition,” Lamb said, “It’s another to get them involved.”

Organizations such as Choice USA, ACCESS and Planned Parenthood have been working to inform women on topics of women’s health by providing information and resources to female students about how to voice their opinions to Congress. Students seeking Reproductive Health Services at Mills are directed to the Tang Center at UC Berkeley.