Award-winning, student-run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield

The Observer

Award-winning, student-run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield

The Observer

Award-winning, student-run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield

The Observer

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Religious beliefs enough cause to roll the dice? Pro-life and pro-contraception advocates debate birth control usage

The Catholic Church is against its use. Congress and President Obama included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to make it accessible and affordable to obtain. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 99 percent of women who have ever had intercourse have reported using it.

It’s birth control – and it’s one of the hot button issues in the country right now.

Stephanie Roger is a junior psychology major with a concentration in child development. She said she thinks using birth control should be encouraged. “We are sexual beings and we have the right to express ourselves sexually but we also have the right to say when we want to procreate and when we don’t want to procreate. I feel like we should have the tools to be responsible.” ¬

Roger added peers in her age group often don’t always think about the consequences of their actions. “I don’t want to generalize, but in my personal experience, young people [in my age group] walk around with that personal fable: ‘it won’t happen to me’ or ‘it can’t happen to me,’” she said. “They know the risks and know what can happen but they roll the dice a lot.”

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Several religious and political groups have criticized birth control use. Springfield Right to Life is a local pro-life advocacy group established in 1971. President Merle King says the group does not favor the use of contraception. “Our position is we oppose the killing of babies as birth control,” he said. “Most people don’t realize how many babies are killed in the womb by birth control pills. There needs to be a distinction between birth control and contraception.”

Roger says she doesn’t concur with opinions such as this. “I respect their opinion to the fullest extent, but I do disagree with it because in a way, they are extremists. The society we live in, when we’re young we have sexual urges and sexual desires,” she said. “When you take things away from them or shun them being human and having regular sexual feelings and doing the things they need to do to be responsible, I feel it puts a lot of pressure on a young person and it’s a detriment to their development.”

Master of Public Administration student Dustin Morrison also agrees with Roger on using birth control. “Statistically, men and women who practice safe sex are much less likely to get an STD or an STI and also prevent unwanted pregnancy,” he said.   “We understand what sexually transmitted diseases and infections can do, we understand more about a lot of the problems that happened in the 1980s with HIV/AIDS; people have gotten more well-read on the issue and have been able to understand [that] just a little protection goes a very long way.”  Morrison also added that groups should not be forced to use it if they use religious affiliation or moral beliefs.

Roger offers a comprehensive plan to arm young people with the information they need to make decisions. “I feel like if there was a good sex ed class, it would have to talk about contraception, the possibility of STDs and using condoms when you’re having sex.” Roger received sexual health education as a high school junior, which was in her opinion “far too late to learn about it.”  Roger enrolled in a class at University of Chicago to learn more about HIV/AIDS and other STIs along with ways to prevent contracting them. “I would share the information with my friends and they would be intrigued because they were so cool with it and I was, too,” she said. “Someone very close to be became infected with HIV and that’s what sparked me to educate myself.”

Roger reminds students to take their health seriously. “It’s okay to have sex, that’s fine. Enjoy your youth. But you absolutely have to protect yourself; you have to absolutely think about how this will affect you tomorrow, months later, years down the road.”

UIS Health Services also offers STI testing as well as contraception services.  Nurse practitioner Jill Stoops said she is always willing to talk to students about their options.  “We don’t have any restrictions on birth control,” she said. “Granted, there may be a health restriction – we have to go into detail with medical history and if you are prone to blood clots or certain diseases like migraines with aura (warning sign preceding migraine). Some people who have those should not be on any type of birth control.”

Students who have sought out information come in with all levels of knowledge, Stoops says. “I see students who are well-educated, who have had exams, they have been on multiple forms of birth control and some have had their parents go with them,” Stoops said. “And some other students who are very naïve, probably didn’t have sex ed class in high school or if they did, it was very minimal. Their parents have never talked about it, they’ve never had their gyn[ecological] exam and so we have that whole realm of spectrum we have to try and fit to their level.”

Stoops added the school does not require students to choose birth control if they do not want to. “I’m just basically a reservoir for screening to make sure you’re eligible and to give you as much information as possible to make your own personal decision,” she said. “I think I personally am an advocate of it [contraception] if someone is not ready for a family and if their religious or personal beliefs don’t prohibit them from using it. In our office, we are open and supportive of each individual’s decisions and we encourage them to involve their partner.”

Stoops also encourages students who read up on birth control and protecting themselves from STIs to receive the Gardisil vaccine, available to both men and women to prevent cervical and penile cancer and the human papillomavirus, or HPV. The three-part shot costs $135 per treatment, but students may get it from the Sangamon County Health Department for a lower price.

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