Boynton expands access to emergency contraception

Brady Averill

When Boynton Health Service’s doors are closed for the day, University students can still get access to emergency contraception at certain local pharmacies.

Previously, Boynton only offered emergency contraceptives for University students after hours at Cub Pharmacy in Roseville, Minn. This fall, it has expanded that access to Target Pharmacy in the Quarry shopping center and Hennepin County Medical Center, said Dr. Carol Nelson, a provider at Boynton’s Women’s Clinic.

The goal of the arrangement is to make emergency contraception more accessible, Nelson said. The selected pharmacies are close to campus, and the sooner emergency contraception is used, the better, she said.

“We want women to have access to it if they need it,” she said.

Emergency contraception is prescription-only, Nelson said, which means a pharmacist cannot just hand it out. First, a student must fill out necessary forms, which provide information about emergency contraception at one of the selected pharmacies. The pharmacist then pages someone from Boynton’s Women’s Clinic to give approval over the phone to dispense the medication, Nelson said.

However, at Hennepin County Medical Center, it’s not necessary to page anyone, because the center has staff members who can write prescriptions, she said.

The pharmacies, including Boynton, prescribe Levonorgestrel, also known as Plan B, which is a commonly used form of emergency contraception, according to Boynton’s Web site. It helps prevent pregnancy within five days of intercourse, Nelson said. Its primary job is to delay ovulation, prevent fertilization, and in rare cases, prevent implantation.

That’s where the controversy comes in. But Nelson said she doesn’t think there should be any.

She said some people confuse emergency contraception with the so-called abortion pill, but Plan B doesn’t cause an abortion. If a woman is pregnant and takes Plan B, it won’t affect the pregnancy, she said.

Without insurance, Plan B costs approximately $40 at Cub and Target pharmacies. At Boynton, it costs approximately $20, she said.

Plan B pill

Plan B is used to prevent pregnancy, not sexually transmitted diseases. It can be used within five days of unprotected sex, according to Boynton’s Web site.

It’s between 85 percent and 95 percent effective, according to the Web site.

“It’s not as effective as many of the other forms of birth control that are readily available,” Nelson said.

And it should only be used as a backup, she said.

Students’ use

Posted outside Meghan Stelzig’s door in Pioneer Hall is information about where students can get emergency contraception.

The health advocate said residents will occasionally ask for emergency contraception. But because it’s prescription-only, she can’t provide it.

Boynton isn’t open all the time, she said, and therefore, students need to have other options.

Offering emergency contraception to students is a touchy topic, Stelzig said. It depends on students’ ideas and values on whether emergency contraception should be used, she said.

The 2004 Student Health Assessment Survey shows many students have used the contraception.

The survey asked if the students or their sexual partners had used emergency contraception in the last year.

Of those who said they were sexually active, 7.1 percent indicated they had either used or had a partner who used emergency contraception. Of those who had used it, 81 percent used it once, 14.8 percent used it twice and 4 percent used it more than two times. Of the 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students surveyed, 54.7 percent responded.

Supervalu, which does business with Cub Pharmacy in Roseville, would not comment on the number of emergency contraception prescriptions it has filled, and Target Corp. did not provide the information by print time.

Nelson said she didn’t know how many prescriptions for Plan B Boynton has given out so far this year.