Pro-abortion rights student group H*yas for Choice began offering free emergency contraception to students Monday, the first time such contraceptives will be widely available on Georgetown University grounds.
Georgetown does not provide any form of contraceptives on campus, except Student Health Services, which will provide hormonal contraceptives, such as birth control, when students can demonstrate medical need for reasons other than contraception, according to the Student Health Services website.
As an emergency contraceptive, Plan B works to prevent pregnancies if taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex or a malfunction of birth control.
Neither Students of Georgetown, Inc., more commonly known as The Corp, nor Wisemiller’s Grocery and Deli, both of which operate storefronts on university grounds, can sell contraceptives, The Hoya reported in 2015.
H*yas for Choice announced through its Facebook page Monday that it would begin offering free Plan B.
“H*yas for Choice has worked for years to improve access to and quality of services available to our community,” the announcement read. “We could not be more excited to make this progress today.”
Elianna Schiffrik (COL ’21), one of HFC’s communications directors, said that Plan B’s absence on campus and the associated difficulties faced by students motivated the group to begin looking into ways that they could provide Plan B for Georgetown students over the summer.
“We recognized there was a need. [Plan B] was very inaccessible on campus because well first, CVS, from certain dorms, is almost a mile to get there and Georgetown students being notoriously busy don’t always have the time to get off campus,” Schiffrik said. “But even more than that, it was inaccessible financially, because it’s between 30 and 60 dollars, and it’s also time sensitive so maybe you don’t have that type of money on hand immediately, so we wanted to be able to meet that need to be able to get [Plan B] free, quickly, and conveniently on campus.”
In order to distribute the contraceptives, HFC is employing a method it says it feels protects students’ privacy. An email account, [email protected] is monitored by a select few board members multiple times a day, and once a request comes in, the HFC board member will arrange a time to meet on campus and distribute the contraceptive.
“We were trying to make it confidential, discrete and quick. Those are our mains goals for how we’re going to provide it,” Schiffrik said.
Although HFC is fully funding the initiative, it also relies partly on donations in order to make the initiative sustainable, Schiffrik said.
“We are funding it ourselves. Even though it’s free, we do ask that if you are able to or just generally support the service and what we do on campus, we’d love a donation,” she said. “We’ve also been really grateful to see in the past 24 hours even since the announcement, we’ve had an influx in donations.”
Schiffrik said that as an unrecognized group by the university, HFC receives no financial support from the university, but that there were benefits to the group’s unrecognized status.
“We don’t have any sort of oversight from faculty or staff, which is great because it gives us more ability to do things like this, but it also is harder because we really are just a group of undergraduates doing what we can to help other undergraduates,” Schiffrik said. “There’s pros and cons to being unrecognized.”
The Monday announcement was met without much controversy, Schiffrik said.
“The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive so far,” she said. “We haven’t seen too much aggressive backlash yet. We do anticipate it.”
The university and Georgetown Right to Life declined to take a standpoint on HFC’s decision to provide Plan B to students in interviews with The Hoya.
“H*yas for Choice is not a student organization with access to university benefits and does not receive funding from the University. Individual students are permitted to express their opinions and ideas freely,” a spokesperson from the university wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Georgetown Right to Life issued a statement to The Hoya that declined to take a stance because of Plan B’s classification as contraception.
“As a club, Georgetown Right to Life does not have a stance on contraception. To our knowledge, Plan-B works to impede fertilization, the goal of contraception. For that reason, we also do not have a stance on the distribution of Plan-B,” the statement read. “We advocate for the dignity of all human life, beginning with conception and ending with natural death. We will continue to fight for the rights of the pre-born and to support pregnant women on our campus and in our community.”
Despite the current stances of the two groups, HFC remains prepared for any potential backlash, according to Schiffrik.
“Georgetown has never supported what we do or what we represent so we wouldn’t be surprised if they in some way reacted or if the anti-choice groups reacted in some sort of counter-measure to oppose what we do, but it’s not going stop us. We’re here to stay. We’ve been around for decades, and we plan on continuing to provide services to the community,” Schiffrik said.
Caroline Sarda (COL ’20), who works as an undergraduate assistant at the Georgetown University Women’s Center, wrote in an email to The Hoya, speaking for herself only, that she is disappointed that it falls to HFC to provide contraception to students but nonetheless considers it an important development for student life at Georgetown.
“I think it’s a shame that so much of the responsibility for our sexual health is placed on us at this stage, especially given students’ wildly varying levels of knowledge about their own sexual and reproductive health,” Sarda wrote. “But I think H*yas For Choice is taking an amazing and very necessary step with providing emergency contraception, which I am very grateful for. To me, the work they’re doing is what student advocacy and care for one another really looks like.”
Correction: This article previously stated H*yas for Choice would offer the emergency contraceptive Plan B One-Step; H*yas for Choice did not specify the brand of emergency contraception it would offer.
This post has been updated.