CW: Sexual violence
Twenty-four hours can change a life. The feeling of this ticking time bomb is hauntingly familiar to many students at our own campuses, alongside a feeling of drowning panic as they are forced to scramble, all alone, looking for emergency contraception that they didn’t expect to need. And at the 5Cs, it’s easy to come up empty-handed.
The possibility of an unwanted and dangerous pregnancy or STD is a medical emergency – and in a medical emergency, students should not be left without support or solutions. The 5Cs have a responsibility to their students to provide ready 24/7 access to emergency contraception, as well as financial support for sexual health services at Student Health Services.
So what should a student do when they need to obtain emergency contraception within a 24-hour time frame? One of the biggest arguments against on-campus, 24/7 emergency contraceptive access is that it is unnecessary because Plan B is available at local pharmacies. This reasoning exacerbates pre-existing discrimination in the United States’ reproductive health care system, marginalizing students who cannot afford Plan B, lack transportation to nearby pharmacies or require a certain extent of privacy due to sensitive circumstances. Much of the time, on-campus services are the only option – and the 5Cs are lacking.
The increasing necessity of emergency contraceptive access and reproductive care on college campuses has become glaringly apparent during a nationwide attack on reproductive rights. What’s more, the increased necessity for access to emergency contraception is particularly important on college campuses where nearly one in four undergraduate women experience rape or sexual violence.
SHS lists the available sexual health care services on their website — as well as the prices of these services. They include emergency contraception sold by SHS for $15 and the Pomona College Wellness Room vending machine for $20, with STI screening panels costing upwards of $70. They do not include options for students who either cannot afford these services or for survivors who have no wish to be poked, prodded and interrogated without guarantee of full confidentiality before they are ready to talk about their experiences.
While the presence of these resources is proof of the Claremont Colleges’ commitment to student sexual health, their location and price fail to make this access five-campus-wide and affordable. To reaffirm their commitment to students’ health, safety and rights to privacy, the Claremont Colleges must work together to implement easy and accessible emergency contraceptive services across their campuses.
Fortunately, roll-out shouldn’t be a major hurdle in 5C-campus-wide distribution of emergency resources; in fact, campus COVID-19 responses set a blueprint for possible methods of contraceptive distribution. This semester, the 5Cs were able to successfully implement uniform vending machines across the campuses to dispense and collect COVID-19 tests.
Additionally, the precedent set by Pomona’s contraceptive vending machine, located on the second floor of Pomona’s Walker Hall Lounge, provides a reliable plan of action to solve the lack of ready access to these resources. Vending machines with various contraceptives, as well as options for free self-administered and professionally-administered STI screenings, are necessary first steps towards ensuring healthier, safer and more equitable student healthcare.
Accessibility also means widespread knowledge of the resources available. Various advocate groups from the 5Cs can hold resource information events, similar to the Sex Trivia or mixer events they currently organize. They can also include booths during major events such as Sex Week that focus entirely on spreading information about available on-campus services to students.
Flyers listing all information around access to Plan B should be hung around the campuses. The colleges can make their sites listing all of SHS’s sexual health services more visible by including it in their main websites, perhaps in the “Student Life” section. Students should know about the availability and location of resources before they encounter a need to use them.
When colleges prioritize reproductive health care, they promote educational equity, reproductive justice and more positive educational outcomes. Having access to emergency contraception early on is absolutely essential, and even the window of a day in which students may not have access to emergency contraception after an emergency can drastically change the results.
Students should have access to these resources at a ready rate, without wait and without questions.
Ashley Park CM ’25 is from Claremont, CA. She has been a CMC Advocate since spring 2022 and works to advocate and raise awareness for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.