Health Services is now offering free, over-the-counter emergency contraception at the on-campus pharmacy, according to a Sept. 7 Today@Brown announcement to the University community.
Health Services has offered both emergency and prescription contraceptive options for over a decade, ranging from birth control pills to intrauterine devices, Vanessa Britto MSc’96, the associate vice president for campus life and executive director of health and wellness, wrote in an email to The Herald.
Brown has also offered safe sex supplies such as condoms and lubricant for over a decade, she added. But students previously had to pay out-of-pocket or bill the charges to insurance to access such products.
With this recent change, all Brown undergraduate, graduate and medical students are able to access these resources for free and without a prescription or health insurance coverage.
While discussions surrounding this initiative began before the pandemic, a working group of medical providers, the University pharmacist, BWll Health Promotion staff and peer educators formed last spring and continued to meet over the summer, Britto wrote.
“Our goal with this initiative is twofold — first to provide easy, timely and equitable access to emergency contraception by eliminating cost considerations for students” and second to increase access to information about sexual health options and resources at the University, Britto wrote.
monique jonath ’24, who works as a sexual health advocate and student coordinator for the Sexual Health Awareness Group, also cited equity as an important consideration for making sexual health resources accessible.
“Condoms in stores are expensive, (and) appointments for various types of contraceptives can be expensive, especially with co-pays,” jonath said. “If you can easily get something, it just makes it feel a lot less daunting.”
Beyond financial considerations, jonath also cited students’ lack of knowledge regarding the availability of sexual health resources as one of the challenges that they’ve witnessed during their time at the University.
Not all students know “that you can get pregnancy testing for free at the pharmacy (or) that you can go in for an appointment to get a consultation about long-acting reversible contraceptives,” jonath said.
jonath hopes that Health Services’ decision to expand access to contraceptives will also improve community-based forms of care, noting that people who feel vulnerable in discussions concerning sexual health might be more comfortable relying on direct community resources.
Health Services also plans to offer pop-up events throughout the fall that will allow students to collect free safer sex supplies and emergency contraception and speak with peer educators and Health Services providers, according to Britto.
jonath emphasized the importance of this move considering broader national trends, such as the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June 2022.
Access “can be extremely helpful for folks (trying to) keep themselves safe from the robbing of personal autonomy that we’re seeing in so much of the country,” they said. “If other universities were to adopt this approach and be very firm on the fact that they want contraceptive access and health empowerment tools to be as available as possible, I’m hoping that could really shift things.”
Aniyah Nelson is a senior staff writer covering diversity on campus. She is a sophomore from Cleveland, Ohio concentrating in political science and sociology. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music and watching bloopers from The Office.