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JMU students right to protest removal of pills

Sept. 17, 2003

Staff editorial

University-issued birth control, especially emergency contraceptive pills, causes intense, prolonged debate in many circles. When it comes to college students, their parents and school administrators, however, the sentiments seem especially intense. Members on James Madison University's Board of Visitors voted in May to no longer sell an emergency contraceptive pill on campus, and students at the Virginia school immediately voiced their discontent with the decision.

Protesters argued the removal of ECPs will negatively affect the health of college women who fear they may be pregnant from date rape or assault. They also said the decision came as a political move for a board member planning to run for Senate in November.

A spokesman for the board said he disagreed with students who felt they had a right to ECPs. He said many parents also have expressed 'outrage' that the tuition money they paid would possibly purchase morning-after pills.

While parents who pay tuition ideally would know about their daughter's health, a decision to remove ECPs accomplishes little in this pursuit. By making emergency contraceptive pills available, a university actually promotes women's health, providing a safe alternative to other measures. Distributing the pill does nothing to cross the fine line between privacy and safety.

The Lariat believes people who make those decisions about their sexual activity make them regardless of ECP availability. Just like more conventional contraceptive methods, the distribution of ECP simply provides one more option for birth control.

The Lariat stresses that ECPs are not abortion pills. They use the same hormones as other birth control pills and don't work once a woman is pregnant, and a woman must take them within a relatively short time after intercourse.

The Lariat believes the board of visitors erred in removing emergency contraceptives from the JMU campus.