Monday, January 17, 2022

W&M eases student access to emergency contraception

Students who have been sexually assaulted can now visit the Haven’s website and download and print a “coupon” for emergency contraception. (WYDaily/Courtesy Flat Hat News)
Students who have been sexually assaulted can now visit the Haven’s website and download and print a “coupon” for emergency contraception. (WYDaily/Courtesy Flat Hat News)

A student-driven initiative is working to aid William & Mary students who have been sexually assaulted by opening up access to emergency contraceptives — commonly known as “Plan B.”

The Haven — the campus’ support and advocacy network for those who have been sexually assaulted or harassed, stalked or abuse — has expanded a partnership with the Student Health Center on campus to help students access emergency contraception.

No awkward or triggering discussions with doctors about the assault, no appointments, no questions asked.

“This was something concrete we could do to reduce this barrier,” said Liz Cascone, director of The Haven

Students who have been sexually assaulted can now visit the Haven’s website and download and print a “coupon” for emergency contraception. The student then takes the coupon to the Student Health Center pharmacy, where they are able to get the product for free.

All full-time students are able to access health care through the Student Health Center.

“The Student Health Center partners with The Haven to assure discreet and easy access to emergency contraception for sexual assault survivors,” said Dr. David Dafashy, director of the Student Health Center. “This service is provided at no cost to the survivor and is part of the Student Health Center’s commitment to supporting the excellent and invaluable work that The Haven provides for its students.”

The Student Health Center typically charges $20 for Plan B for students, but has always waived that fee for those who have been assaulted. Cascone said the only way the center was able to waive the fee was by having a student tell them their circumstance.

Name-brand Plan B sold at regular drug stores such as CVS usually costs between $45 and $50, and does not require a consultant with a medical provider.

The new coupon system simply cuts out the trip to see the medical provider, and helps expedite the process to get the emergency contraception.

“The only way students could get it is if they saw a doctor or nurse and said ‘I have been sexually assaulted,’” Cascone said.

Cascone said the Haven hasn’t been tracking the coupon’s use so far, but said she can check in with the Student Health Center Pharmacy at the end of the semester to see how many coupons were used.

A copy of the coupon for free emergency contraception. (WYDaily/Courtesy the Haven)
A copy of the coupon for free emergency contraception. (WYDaily/Courtesy the Haven)

The beginning

The coupon system is new this year and started last month, Cascone said.

The idea to create an easier way to get emergency contraception was suggested by a William & Mary student on the Haven’s advisory board last October.

“That’s what’s so important about the advisory board,” said Cascone, who has worked at The Haven for three years. “They see things, hear things or experience things that I might just be removed from.”

The student had a friend who suggested meeting with a medical provider and disclosing that the assault had occurred could be prohibitive during a situation when hours matter — Plan B needs to be used within a few days of the act to ensure it’s effective.

After the suggestion, Cascone met with Dafashy, who was on board with the change.

Cascone said she had not received any negative feedback or concerns about removing the consultation with a medical provider from the process, as most pharmacies give out Plan B without a consultation anyway.

Moving forward

While the coupons are intended for those who have been assaulted, they are accessible for any student who goes on The Haven website.

Cascone said The Haven doesn’t plan to exclude other students, because it’s impossible to tell a student’s reasoning for accessing the coupon.

Students may miss out on some advice or access to resources without the medical provider appointment, but Cascone said The Haven is trying to offset that by listing numerous resources on its website that students need to pass by while accessing the coupon.

“We still encourage folks to see a health provider, or come talk to someone at The Haven,” Cascone said.

“In those first few days you’re thinking ‘I don’t want a pregnancy,’” Cascone added. “You take care of those barriers and then ask the question, ‘How do I deal with this, how do I handle this?’… We want to make sure students have other resources for support.”

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Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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