Many college students need schooling in the ABCs of emergency contraception, according to a new survey published by Teva Women’s Health and the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University.
The survey found that 62 percent of 3,600 undergraduates and graduate students falsely believed there was an age restriction to buy over-the-counter emergency contraception, which in New York City costs around $55.
It also said that 53 percent were unaware they didn’t need to show identification to purchase it and that 57 percent didn’t know that emergency contraception should be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex or failure of another birth-control method.
The survey promotes awareness of Teva’s Plan B One-Step, one of the “morning after” options to prevent an unplanned pregnancy.
But if conversations with college students in lower Manhattan are any indication, there is a good reason many young people are in the dark about emergency contraception: They don’t need it.
“I’ve never found anyone I’m comfortable with enough,” to have sex, said Sarah Hennessy, 20, a Parsons sophomore who lives in the East Village.
Hennessy, one of the few women willing to use her full name, echoed many women who said they recognized that choosing to have intercourse was an important decision with physical, financial and emotional ramifications — and that they were not remotely tempted to experience physical intimacy with anyone other than a worthy, reliable partner with whom they were emotionally intimate.
“I want to be in a stable and long-term commitment” before having sex, said Ritchel, 22, an NYU senior majoring in psychology, who did not know about the emergency contraception.
Ritchel, a Christian who says that she’s “actively celibate,” prefers to be married before having intercourse, but adamantly supports more education about and access to contraception of all kinds as well as abortion rights.
“It’s just not right to subject women” to anything that infringes on their innate right to control their own bodies, she said. Disgusted by a profit-hungry U.S. medical system, Ritchel, who once aspired to be a physician, said any sexual activity carried substantial physical and financial risks.
She added that “you have to protect yourself,” in a society where women are increasingly vulnerable and exploited, and abstinence is the ultimate protection.
According to the CDC, the mean age for first intercourse for women aged 15-44 was 17.2 years, as determined by a 2011-13 survey. But it is clear that at least some college women are waiting longer, knowing an unplanned pregnancy could jeopardize their dreams.
“Abstinence is a good way to go,” said Adriana, 18, a Parsons freshman. “I will definitely have to know someone for a long period of time,” before embarking on a sexual relationship with activities that carry a risk of pregnancy and STDs.
Alice, 18, a freshman at the New School, recently received an unwelcome crash course in emergency contraception. Losing her virginity in a November Tinder hookup, she purchased Plan B at a pharmacy the next morning, but then discovered that the standard dose might not be as effective in women weighing more than 165 pounds, which she does. Alice took both pills in the box, but then went to Planned Parenthood for good measure, where she received and took another pregnancy prevention pill.
“I was freaked out and really worried — worried about getting pregnant, worried about being judged for getting pregnant and I felt stupid for not using a condom,” she said.
The terrifying saga “was a good experience in terms of learning, but now I don’t want to have sex again,” said Alice, who now takes birth control pills from Planned Parenthood to help with a hormonal imbalance.
Annie, a 21-year-old junior at NYU, knew where to get emergency contraceptives, even though she said that she had never used that product and relies on condoms for her sexual encounters.
She added that it is important that emergency contraception be easily available without a prescription because many college students don’t want to see bills for birth control pills pop up “on their parents’ insurance.” It would be even better if all birth control was free and “de-stigmatized” Annie said.
But how is she so literate in the specifics of emergency contraception if she has never used it?
“I’m a journalism and media studies major,” she said. “This is pretty open info. It’s not anything that is hidden in the gutters of the internet.”