NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

Consider the Stork: Why Free Birth Control Matters for College Students

Consider+the+Stork%3A+Why+Free+Birth+Control+Matters+for+College+Students

For many young people in college, a sense of anticipation permeates the air; they count the hours until the results of an important exam, the minutes until the end of class, and the number of days until they graduate.  

However, very few are counting the days until a stork brings them a bundle of joy — also known as an unintended pregnancy. 

Don’t get me wrong — I believe that babies are a blessing. However, as I learned in a statistics course, this is perhaps not a discrete problem but a continuous one. A National Institutes of Health study of female college students found that those who have the choice of contraceptives have a higher happiness index and quality of life. 

For more non-traditional students such as myself, family planning might have already started. I sometimes count the little fingers and toes of newborns on my Instagram feed and catch a case of baby fever. It is, however, not feasible at the moment, for me or most of my classmates, to halt our educational and professional plans to start a family.  

This is why it also seemed like fate that the decision to make birth control available over the counter, New Jersey Senate Bill 275, was legalized by New Jersey governor Phil Murphy recently and is anticipated to launch this spring. This decision was a concentrated effort by the Murphy administration to affirm reproductive rights for residents of New Jersey. 

I welcome this decision because the dashed hopes of college students who have their education paused because of an unplanned pregnancy will be averted. Secondly, many unintended accidental pregnancies will be prevented, even amongst those without health insurance. Thirdly, these two factors combined will decrease unplanned pregnancies across the socioeconomic scale, thus reducing strain on the New Jersey economy. 

This effort to make contraceptives over the counter was a Democrat-led venture; Republican legislators might crow that the availability of over-the-counter birth control might encourage increased sexual activity in the younger population. However, they should eat crow. Findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown a marked decrease in both unplanned pregnancies and sexual activity amongst young adults in the United States in the past few years. 

As a Black woman, I am particularly concerned about whether the African American population will benefit from this new measure. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the pregnancy rate decreased by 12% amongst non-Hispanic Black women from 2010 to 2019.  

This was in part due to the Affordable Care Act, which made contraceptive coverage through insurance mandatory. Having contraceptives over the counter will break yet another barrier to access of care in terms of reproductive health. I am grateful to say that for me and millions of other college students, the stork can now indeed visit at a better, more desirable time. 

 

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