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Iowa College Students Protest Cost of Birth Control Pill


More than 400 Iowa college students have signed a petition protesting federal legislation that has made getting birth control more expensive.

The 2005 Deficit Reduction Act went into effect in January and changes the way manufacturers calculate Medicaid-related rebates to states, making it more costly for them to offer discounts to colleges.

The higher prices are for college women who don’t have insurance or don’t want to use their parents’ insurance because they don’t want their parents to know. Prices for birth control products, such as Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo, have increased from $15 a pack to $53 a pack at student health centers at Iowa’s three public universities. The petition also includes students from some of Iowa’s private universities.

“We think affordable birth control is something we can all agree on,” said Dana Gustafson, a junior at Drake University and a member of an abortion-rights group that has lobbied for the petition drive.

The petition will be presented to Sen. Tom Harkin and Charles Grassley next month, said Julie Stauch, vice president of governmental affairs at Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa.

The petition was part of a nationwide effort coordinated by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, where petitions on the cost of birth control are being drafted and signed at campuses across the country.

About six university health centers nationwide have discontinued selling contraceptives as a result of the legislation, according to the American College Health Association.

Many campuses bought birth control in bulk before the legislation went into effect, but 75 percent of the association’s 141 members have run out of the supply, said Mary Hoban, an association spokeswoman.

The University of Iowa ran out of its supply of Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo after its price at the university jumped from $15 to $53 per month.

The University of Northern Iowa is still offering it at $15 until next semester. Pharmacists at Iowa State expect their lower-cost supply to run out in August 2008.

Kim Spading, a pharmacist at Iowa’s student health center, said some doctors have worked with students to switch to generic brands of birth control to keep costs down.

“To be honest, a lot of the birth control pills are so similar there is not any reason one is better than another,” she said.

But opponents of the price increase say generic brands carry possible side effects.

“I’m hearing providers frustrated by that: They can’t prescribe the best medication. They have to go by what the student can afford the pay,” said Hoban of the college health association.

Information from: The Des Moines Register,

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