Are condoms condoned at Canisius?

By Elizabeth Sawka

Assistant Opinion Editor

Though Planned Parenthood is located conveniently on the metro line, not so conveniently it may be defunded.   Furthermore, students cannot receive many reproductive health services from the campus health center.  The Student Health Center does offer testing for sexually transmitted diseases, but this test is paid for with the student’s insurance, so the parents of the student would be notified of the test.  The Health Center generally sends students to the Erie County Medical Center for STD testing because students can have the test done confidentially, but the tests are expensive.

The Health Center used to bring a representative from the Erie County Health Clinic twice a semester for free or reduced STD Health Testing, but budget cuts have prevented them from continuing this service.  The Student Health Center Services page on the Canisius website is outdated because according to the website, the campus health center “does not provide any reproductive health services for women or men,” and even though STD tests are expensive and not confidential, it is within a student’s rights to receive the test on campus.  Our campus offers limited reproductive health services, but these services are not confidential, so many students are unable to utilize the option.  For a campus that advocates cura personalis, the “care of the whole person,”  we do not offer an easy solution for students to find reproductive health services.

The Canisius website does list several locations in Buffalo where students can receive reproductive health services.  Planned Parenthood is not listed, but Sister’s Hospital Women’s Clinic is included. For pregnancy prevention, the hospital’s website only offers Natural Family Planning.  This is a technique where women chart physical changes during ovulation to determine the days of the month that they are most fertile.  To avoid pregnancy using this method, heterosexual couples abstain from intercourse during particularly fertile periods in the menstrual cycle.  There is no mention of hormonal contraception being offered as an option, but the website advocates for natural family planning over hormonal contraception because it claims that hormonal contraception is harmful to fertility. There are no statistics on how many individuals experienced fertility issues after choosing to use hormonal contraception.

It’s certainly none of my business what contraception students choose, but it is concerning that our campus website directs students to a service that does not provide the option for hormonal contraceptives.  Students should at least be able to access a list of locations offering reproductive health services that offer hormonal birth control and/or free condoms even if our health center does not provide these services.  The list of Buffalo locations on the website are intended for students to find the resources they need that our campus does not provide, so this list of reproductive health services should include a variety of options for students. Our campus website needs to be updated to reflect the current policy of reproductive health services, but it should also reflect all options for students within the city of Buffalo.

Students cannot receive a prescription for hormonal birth control from the campus health center, but the health center is not designed to provide long term treatment.  The health center does not fill prescriptions for students, but this should not prevent students from obtaining condoms.  In last Tuesday’s Undergraduate Student Association Senate meeting, various senators discussed bringing condoms to campus in an effort for students to have accessible contraception.  Almost every senator was in favor of a proposition to bring condoms to the campus bookstore.

The Health Fee automatically is applied to our bill and this fee includes the health center and the counseling center.  Visits to the Counseling Center are free and confidential, so tests at the Health Center should also be free and confidential.  Students visiting the Counseling Center are utilizing a service our campus offers to strengthen their mental health and can schedule weekly meetings with a counselor for as many weeks as they see fit.  Students’ insurance companies—and by extension, their parents—are not notified.  Griffs are unable to get confidential and free reproductive health services on campus, so we must go off campus to maintain physical care of our bodies and the website does not list Planned Parenthood or Evergreen Health Services.  If our campus cannot provide these services confidentially, the health center website should at least inform students where they can find confidential health services.

Students are not required to have a specific religious affiliation, but since our health center does not provide full access to reproductive health services, they do not provide Plan B to students.  In the case of a rape, a victim seeking prosecution of their attacker generally undergoes a rape kit.  If the victim is female, the rape kit at a hospital has the option of Plan B, which is an oral contraceptive that uses the hormone levonorgestrel.  This is a hormone found in daily birth control pills, but Plan B has a higher level of the hormone, which prevents the release of an egg from the ovary.  If the person taking Plan B is already pregnant, there will be no effect on the pregnancy.

If our Health Center is denying students access to hormonal contraception due to the stance the Catholic church takes on contraception, then the student seeking Plan B would be expected to conform to the ideologies of the Catholic Church.  Even though that student attends a Jesuit institution, at least according to the College’s policies, does this place a student at risk? Does this call for us to deny students what they need in order to thrive? Above all, if we’re promoting so much information about body autonomy, why are we as an institution taking it away by preventing students who are victims of sexual assault from being further invaded by their attacker?

Change can come slowly when modernizing policies intended to reflect the standings of the Catholic Church, but students at Canisius are not required to be Catholic or even to practice a religion.  It is highly inappropriate to prevent students not only from accessing contraception in the health center, but to promote a health service that does not offer a variety of options.  There should be a balance of resources available on the website that offer varieties of contraception methods and students should have full autonomy over their health and the freedom of confidentiality. If we’re teaching students to take control of their bodies, why are we as an institution doing it?

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