Views expressed in opinion columns are the author's own.
The college experience extends far beyond the walls of a classroom. Entering the world of college is a change for any new student, as it gives them a set of newfound freedoms and opportunities to explore. Learning to take care of oneself during illness falls into the spectrum of new experiences, and the interruptions that can so often be incurred due to illness are not conducive to getting an education.
Sexual health is no different. For many students, college comes with a newfound sexual freedom, and keeping oneself healthy and safe through the use of contraceptives is the responsible way to do just that. Therefore, it is imperative for the University of Maryland and other universities across the country to take measures that make birth control and emergency contraceptives more readily available to students.
Currently, this university's students can get the generic Plan B emergency contraceptive at a discounted rate at the Health Center. However, the Health Center's pharmacy is only open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., greatly limiting the times students can attain emergency contraceptives on campus. If students seek pharmaceutical services outside these hours, they must go off the campus to surrounding pharmacies and pay an unsubsidized price for Plan B, posing a barrier to students who can't afford the difference in price. Del. Maricé Morales is sponsoring House Bill 1205, which mandates all public universities in the state of Maryland provide students with emergency contraceptives 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Unlike a business, a student's sex life does not operate on a 9-5 schedule, and because of this, access to emergency contraceptives should not operate on a schedule. It is in the best interest of this university and its students to rectify the issue of emergency contraceptives on the campus, as the lack of such products doesn't always lead to less sex, but perhaps more unsafe and unwanted pregnancies. College students have a vested interest in ensuring that they have independence, autonomy and choice both inside and outside of the classroom. At such a formative and dynamic time in our lives, we should be given every single option, without undue impediments, when making life-changing decisions about our personal health. Implementing HB 1205 would not only allow for the betterment of women's health and choice on the campus — something that has, and will continue to be, challenged throughout the new presidency — but also encourage dialogue surrounding birth control and sexual health on the campus. The issue of emergency contraceptives is one that cannot wait. I implore this university's administration to take this issue seriously and begin conversations regarding the importance of sexual health and autonomy, as well as adopt the policies outlined within HB 1205.
Sarah Riback is a freshman government & politics major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.