Winslow Health Center offers new family planning, women’s health services

Contributing Writer
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Cheers echoed through Arter Hall Tuesday as members of the Reproductive Health Coalition celebrated the new reproductive health services that are being offered for the first time at Winslow Health Center. These services include free pelvic and breast exams, and reduced prices on birth control and emergency contraception.

Students must make appointments to receive birth control prescriptions along with pelvic and breast exams, which are provided by a specialist who will visit once every other week.

Dean of Students Joseph DiChristina explained that the specialist is contracted through Family Planning services.

“Our director, Sue Plunkett, responded to the request of students and has coordinated a program through Family Planning services,” DiChristina said. “[They] have the experience to provide care and education.”

In fall 2010, the Allegheny Young Feminists organized a committee to specifically address the state of reproductive health on campus in comparison to other colleges such as Denison, Ohio Wesleyan and DePauw, Allegheny was not offering sufficient women’s health and family planning services.

ReproCo, which became an ASG-approved club last year, began by distributing pamphlets about the underutilized facilities that were already on campus as well as nearby resources for those services which Allegheny lacked. Building from this, they began to discuss the support and logistics needed to bring emergency oral contraception to campus for an affordable price.

Recent graduate Rachel Willis said that during her first week of college, every pharmacy in Meadville ran out of Plan B.

“I was impressed and horrified all at once,” she said.

Since Winslow does not have weekend hours, ReproCo board member Gena Frank recommended that students plan ahead. Having inexpensive emergency contraceptives available on campus allows students to purchase a package before it is needed.

“We’re going to be encouraging folks to have a pack […] for themselves or even just for a friend, especially if they aren’t taking a prescribed contraceptive,” Frank said. “No one would have thought to do it when it cost $50, but at this price it’s actually an option.”

Currently, only female students are able to pick up Next Choice, a version of emergency contraceptive similar to Plan B, but ReproCo launched an initiative to allow male students to purchase emergency contraceptives as well.

“It’s responsible, and if someone asked me to do it, I definitely would,” said Ahasanur Rahman, ’13.
Other students such as Dylan Hodges, ’15, who expressed reservations, but ultimately approved of the new services.

“I think that it is great that the health center is offering this option at a reduced price,” he said. “While it could be argued that the reduced price promotes unsafe sex, I feel that the benefit of having plan B available is indispensable.”

Winslow offered these services in the early 90’s, but students rarely utilized them. Twenty years later, ReproCo hopes that the shift in culture will allow students to be more active about their sexual health, calling themselves a “sex-positive” group.

ReproCo stressed that their goal is not to encourage sexual behavior on campus.

“We want to affirm people’s rights to make their own choices about what they want to do sexually, whether that means they want to be abstinent, whether that means you want to have multiple partners, whatever sexual orientation – we want you to be able to define your own sexual experience,” Frank said.

ReproCo President Anastasia Wooten, ’13, agreed.

“We want you to be able to define your own sexual experience, safely and without hassle, within a culture that normalizes sexual health,” said Wooten.

The organization’s aspirations for the new semester include promotion of the new services, establishing their use as safe and socially acceptable and getting condom dispensers for high traffic areas.
They also anticipate that the lowered cost of services such as STI testing will encourage students to schedule appointments at the center.

“Before, it was either pay using their parents insurance or pay out of pocket – neither of which were desirable,” said Wooten.

According to their website, the Winslow Health Center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 to 4 p.m. There is no charge to see the staff, and they are open from 12 to 1 p.m. for questions and to schedule appointments.

“This is a legacy that I’m proud to leave,” Frank said. “I know so many people that have not been able to get on birth control pills when they ought to be due to cost or accessibility who will now be able to, and that’s immeasurable.”

Jacquie Kondrot, associate dean of students for wellness education and sexual harassment officer, congratulated ReproCo for its advocacy on the behalf of students’ health.

“In short, I am so appreciative of the tireless work of ReProCo, and Sue Plunkett and all the Health Center staff, plus Family Planning Services of Meadville, for making this happen for our students,” Kondrot said. “The students of ReproCo were such strong, persistent and articulate advocates that it was clear that this was the right thing to do as an on-campus option for our students.”