Fighting for lower birth control costs

By By Constance Yonashiro

By Constance Yonashiro

When birth control prices spiked earlier this year on campuses across the nation, Students for Choice was one of the few U groups to protest the change.

The group encouraged students to call Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and urge him to support the Prevention Through Affordable Access Act, which would restore original discounts on contraceptives given to campuses.

“We wanted students to call Matheson’s office to let him know there are people here who want the…bill passed,” said Mandy Cheang, a junior in English and co-director of the group.

Matheson’s office received 64 phone calls in one day encouraging him to back the bill, according to Sonja Balice, a senior in economics and a co-director of the group.

The effort seemed to work — Matheson is now a co-sponsor of the bill.

However, the U group hasn’t limited its activism to one cause.

Every Thursday, the group sets up a table in front of the Union with informational pamphlets about healthy relationships and boxes of free condoms and sample tubes of lubricant.

“We want to spread awareness, encourage activism about reproductive issues and let people know what’s available to them,” Balice said.

Balice and Cheang reorganized the group in the fall with the help of the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, which provides the group with its information. The original group disbanded more than a year ago because students graduated and organizational changes occurred at Planned Parenthood.

“We restarted in October, so we’re still kind of new,” Balice said. “We’re really trying to get out there, passing out flyers and to just become more visible on campus.”

There are about five active members of the group, but Balice hopes that by spreading awareness every week more people will become interested in the group and want to join, she said.

“Students for Choice’s mission is two-fold,” said Joey Richards, the public affairs coordinator for Planned Parenthood. “One, to educate about choices, but also to be healthy in all choices about sexuality and sex. The second is to advocate for reproductive choices through legislative means.”

In regards to legislative matters, the group wants students to keep up-to-date on important reproductive issues, Balice said.

“We encourage students to register to vote and to endorse candidates who support choice,” Balice said. “We also want students to be involved in lobbying during the legislative session.”

Passing out informational flyers and calling students to be involved in the effort to restore discounted prices for contraceptives are a few of the things the group did to get the campus community more aware of issues this semester, Cheang said.

In the spring, the group plans to do more events with the help of Planned Parenthood.

“We plan on doing a lot of outreach during the spring and specifically to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade,” said Richards, referencing the 1973 landmark case in which the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy.

He said that it is important to realize that Planned Parenthood and Students for Choice offer information about broad topics, not just healthy physical relationships, but also healthy emotional relationships as well.

“We get all our information from Planned Parenthood. So we even get information about menopause, talking to teens about drugs and things like that,” which is helpful to non-traditional students, who might be older and have children of their own, Cheang said. “Our informational pamphlets cover everything from abstinence to various birth control means to abortions and everything in between.”

The response has been good on campus, Balice said. Students are usually open-minded, more than people who come from off-campus who might have a preconceived notion of what Planned Parenthood is all about, she said.

“No one’s really confronted us, calling us baby killers or anything,” Cheang said. “A lot of people who walk by do a double-take and keep walking. A few people snatch things, like condoms, off the table, and every so often a few people will ask us what we’re doing and want more information.”

Balice said the group is not all for one thing or against another, but wants people to realize they have a variety of choices and ultimately can choose what they want to do.

“We want people to stop by our table and find out what’s going on,” she said. “We welcome all views and we try to do things to get a dialogue going so people can be aware of different issues and the different choices they have.”

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