Pregnancy at Yale: What’s a girl to do if contraception fails?

There’s no doubt that Yalies are interested in sex. From conspicuously empty plastic baggies hanging in freshman entryways to Porn in the ‘Morn’s overflowing enrollment, signs abound that Yalies want to learn about it, watch it and even do it. Still, while drunken hook-ups and steamy relationships may be fodder for salacious Sunday brunch conversations, pregnancy, typically, is not.

But despite its lack of visibility, pregnancy is far from a non-issue on campus.

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In fact, according to a News poll sent to 2,000 Yale undergraduates last week, one in three of the 281 female respondents reported having used Plan B at least once to prevent a possible pregnancy during their time at Yale. In addition, 20 percent of female respondents reported having believed they were pregnant at some point, while five students indicated that they had actually been pregnant. (Plan B is an emergency contraceptive that reduces the chance of pregnancy by 89 percent if taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sexual intercourse or contraceptive failure. Unlike the abortion pill, RU-486, it does not affect an existing pregnancy.)

Concerns about pregnancy are perhaps unsurprising, considering that, of the 55 percent of respondents who indicated they had previously had or were currently having heterosexual sex, nearly 20 percent said they either used ‘the pull-out method’ or no form of contraception at all.

Meanwhile, the most widely used form of contraception among the poll’s respondents was condoms, at 45 percent. Last year, Yale University Health Services provided 10,000 of them to undergraduates, said James Perlotto, chief of student medicine at YUHS.

Still, in actual use, condoms fail 11 percent of the time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is potentially 11 pregnant Yalies for every 100 who only use condoms to protect against pregnancy.

So what’s a girl to do if contraception fails, if she has unprotected sex — or if she winds up pregnant?

With February and its deluge of love-promoting, sex-prompting activities at last at an end, it is high time to examine two issues that receive little attention at Yale: pregnancy prevention and, well, pregnancy.

ONE IN THREE: COULD BE ME

“Shit happens,” said Sue, an Ezra Stiles College sophomore who said she has used Plan B once. “It’s better to take Plan B than get pregnant or worry until your next period about whether or not you are pregnant.” (Students referenced by only their first names in this article have been quoted under pseudonyms to protect their privacy.)

When told the poll found one in three female respondents had previously used Plan B, the two dozen students interviewed for this article had mixed reactions. On the one hand, most students who said they had used Plan B were either not surprised or said they expected the percentage to be higher. On the other, many who had not used Plan B said they expected it to be lower.

All students interviewed said unequivocally they were glad that students had been able to access Plan B if they believed they needed it.

“I think it’s great that people are aware of backup options and are taking advantage of them,” said one Branford College junior, who has used Plan B.

But Jennifer, a junior in Davenport College, said that while the statistic did not surprise her, she believes Yale administrators should do more to inform students — perhaps during Camp Yale — of all their emergency contraceptive options.

Jennifer said she used Plan B for the first time during her freshman year after barrier contraception failed. When she realized what had happened, she said she felt completely in the dark about what to do.

“Sure they told us at Camp Yale all about condoms and how important it is to use them,” she said. “But they didn’t really tell us what happens when they don’t work.”

It was ultimately one of Jennifer’s suitemates who told her about Plan B. Based on her own experience with the emergency contraceptive, Jennifer’s suitemate told her what it was, how to get it and what side effects to expect.

Yet despite her suitemate’s warnings, Jennifer said she was not prepared for the intense nausea and vomiting — just two of the numerous side effects the pill can induce — that followed. Jennifer’s story was similar to those of the 11 other female students interviewed who said they have taken Plan B. Most described the experience as, at mildest, very unpleasant.

While all 24 Elis said they were aware that Plan B is available over the counter, about a third said they did not know that YUHS subsidizes it.

Although the $28 the YUHS pharmacy charges for Plan B is far less than the $47 average price charged by four New Haven drug stores surveyed by the News, many peer Universities — including Harvard — offer students the emergency pill for free.

As such, for many, the pills’ monetary cost is enough to deter one from using it as a regular form of birth control, Sue said.

Jennifer, after learning that Plan B contains the same hormone as regular birth control pills but in a higher dosage, said she figured it would be cheaper and more convenient to take four or five regular birth control pills instead of Plan B.

“It was much worse than Plan B,” she said of her homemade version’s side effects. “I would not recommend it.”

Still, Yalies agree: While nausea is temporary, the consequences of pregnancy are forever.

Annie Creager ’11, a community health educator who teaches New Haven students about sex and STDs, summarized the poll’s results: “I think it just shows how much people don’t want to be pregnant,” she said.

POST-PLAN B: YOU’RE PREGNANT

But even if Plan B is used, it is not 100 percent effective. Of the poll’s 281 female respondents, five reported they had gotten pregnant while at Yale — three of whom reported that they had terminated the pregnancy.

When a student thinks she may be pregnant and is considering terminating the pregnancy, the process is — at least superficially — straightforward. After an initial pregnancy test and consultation with an OB/GYN clinician, it does not involve YUHS, said Doreen Kutys, an account assistant at YUHS.

If the student decides to terminate a pregnancy, YUHS refers them to Planned Parenthood and is no longer in the picture: It is the student who schedules the appointment and makes the decisions, while the Yale Health Plan foots the bill.

What happens next depends on the student’s preferences and how far along the pregnancy is: If she is between five and nine weeks pregnant, she has a choice between RU-486 — a pill that ends a pregnancy by contracting the uterus — and an in-clinic surgical abortion. However, if she is between nine and 24 weeks pregnant, a surgical abortion is her only option. If she is over 24 weeks pregnant, an abortion is performed only if medically necessary.

There is no upper limit on the number of abortions a student may have covered per year by the basic Yale Health Plan, which every student is required to have.

“Our primary concern is for our students and ensuring that they have access to the care they need,” YUHS Director Paul Genecin said.

The basic undergraduate health plans at Princeton and Harvard also cover pregnancy terminations and neither school places a limit on the number a student may have performed, said John Kolligian, the executive director of Undergraduate Health Services at Princeton, and Paula Fiori, the director of operations for student health at Harvard.

Still, Choose Life at Yale, a student-run advocacy group, would like to see YUHS place a stronger emphasis on the viability of adoption as an alternative to abortion, CLAY President Caroline Swinehart ’11 said.

Nevertheless, Yale’s policy is not a unique one, added another CLAY member, Kevin Gallagher ’11.

“It is what is the default position intellectually in this country right now,” he said. “It’s nothing to be particularly surprised about.”

Comments

  • Recent Alum

    Plan B = abortion. Let's be clear about what this is.

  • female yalie

    Is the subsidy for Plan B very recent? When I was in a situation where the condom failed in the fall of 2007, I called DUH the next day, and got urgent care. A very rude nurse told me that she couldn't help me and I should go to Walgreens. She didn't even bother to mention how and when I could get tested for STIs, and she wouldn't let me ask any questions. It's made me wary of discussing sexual health with anyone at DUH, because there's no way to avoid their judgment.

  • Yalie '04

    Your depiction of Plan B was seriously unbalanced. Not everyone who uses it has unpleasant side effects. For some, including myself, there are no side effects at all.

    Furthermore, it is irresponsible to hint that "four or five" birth control pills, taken together, work the same as Plan B. It is indeed true that certain kinds of hormonal birth control pills can be used this way, but not all can, and the therapeutic dosages vary by brand. More information can be found here:
    http://ec.princeton.edu/worldwide/default.asp

  • Mother

    Life is always an option.

    You CAN finish your academic year, enlist the support of family, etc., and HAVE a child. As a Yale student you already have the presumed intellectual capability to make intelligent decisions, including those as a parent to a child who could need YOU. Yes, having a child may require a year, perhaps even two out of your academic career initially. In that one-two year period you can find and establish a firm support network, so that people and plans are in place when you resume your education. Many of you would take a "year-off" to study abroad, or to "explore the world", why not take a year off to raise a child, if your experiments with your sexuality helped to create one?

    I am a Yalie, and a Mom who became pregnant during my Senior Year at Yale, and I never once thought about terminating my pregnancy. In fact, I surprised the OB/GYN department at YUHS. The OB/GYN called to "give me news" regarding the pregnancy test I had taken there, and when she confirmed - what I already knew - that I was pregant, I ecstatically said "Thank you, God, and thank you, too, for this wonderful news." The OB/GYN was speechless! It was clear to me that this was not the typical response she was accustomed to hearing from undergraduate Yale women. I ask: Why should it be so atypical?

    Please Yalies, consider this: Life for your child is ALWAYS an option. (One not given much attention in this article.) My life is so rich and so fulfilled as a mother, and yours may be, too. Of course, each of us is different, but I beseech you, please consider MOTHERHOOD as an option, too.

  • jb

    lol, just stick to oral and anal and you'll be fine…

  • Anonymous

    What about the adoption option? There are many couples unable to have children of their own who are waiting to adopt. To take full responsibility for your actions AND to give the gift of life to a waiting couple seems like a worthy option. Of course, there is also abstinence…now we're talking about responsible behavior.

  • Irony?

    Zeta Psi gets lynched and yet 21% of Yale girls thought they were pregnant?

    Why no inclusion of the abortion statistics?

    This article leaves many unanswered questions.

    To the girl with the Camp Yale comment: Why does Yale have to tell undergrads what happens when the condom breaks?

    Are you really that stupid?

  • Yale Med school Alum, gyn MD

    Plan B does not have the same hormones as oral contraceptives. It has only the progestogen, not the estrogen, and is well-tolerated by most of the women who use it. It is also fine to take it all at once, instead of 2 doses 12 hours apart in case a woman thinks she might forget the second dose.

    I object to the Plan B equals abortion comment and would also like to point out a few important statistics. Most teenagers who get pregnant, do so in an unplanned fashion. Of those who keep their pregnancy, less than 1% give up the child for adoption. The educational level and socio-economic level of women who have children as teenagers is significantly less on average than women who have children after age 21. Studies also show that "abstinence only" programs have just as many teenagers having sex as the more comprehensive sex education programs AND the abstinence only teens are MORE likely to have sex without contraception!

  • Yale Feminist for Life

    Wow, this article barely touched on what women can do if they don't want to abort! I've met Yale mothers before! And there's a Yale mother commenting in this article. Why didn't the YDN writers focus more on motherhood?

  • md

    @1

    Ummm…Plan B is not abortion. It is actually quite biologically distinct from abortion. If you're morally opposed to birth control, you might find Plan B equally as wrong as abortion, but treating the two as synonymous is incorrect.

  • Yale 09

    This is hilarious.

    Yale girls try to postpone the consequences of sex.

    Like salmon swimming up stream.

    Sex = babies.

    For all of your intelligence, they seem unable to grasp that nature will find a way around any of your barriers.

  • to Yale Med School Alum

    "Plan B contains two pills with a arger dose of levonorgestrel, a hormone found in many birth control pills, and works in a similar way to prevent pregnancy."

    "the difference is that Plan B contains two pills with a larger dose of levonorgestrel than the amount found in a single birth control pill."

    ^^from: http://www.go2planb.com/index.aspx

    Also..
    "Plan B is not an abortion pill. It won't work if you're already pregnant. If you take Plan B and you are already pregnant, it will not affect your existing pregnancy." (from same place)

  • Anonymous

    @#1, Recent Alum

    Actually, if being clear is what we value, we should provide facts without making judgments. Most of the time, Plan B simply prevents fertilization. Sometimes, Plan B prevents a fertilized egg from implanting and becoming a fetus. Abortion removes a growing fetus from the womb. Having moral qualms about emergency contraception (ie, because you believe life starts with fertilization) is one thing. Calling it abortion, however, is incorrect.

  • Yale Male

    @ Yale 09:

    You say: "Yale girls try to postpone the consequences of sex."

    Good for them. Maybe they are waiting until the men in their life are also willing to accept the consequences.

    You say: "Sex = babies"

    Ummm … no, actually.

    Sex = m * babies, where m is a positive constant inversely propotional to the correct use of contraceptives.

    For example, if a woman uses the pill correctly and her partner uses a condom correctly, the chances of getting pregnant over the course of a year are, on average, ((chance just on pill) * (chance just with condom)) = 0.01 * 0.02 = 0.0002.

    (Even if not always used correctly, the number is only 1.2%.)

    http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control-4211.htm

    So, please, keep your moralizing to yourself — the rest of us will stick to the facts.

  • Abortion is wrong

    Plan B seeks the termination of the early stages of pregnancy.

    Protect life from CONCEPTION until NATURAL DEATH.

  • graphs

    Interesting results from the poll--about what I'd expect, I guess. I would love to see related results from Yale men--have you ever thought someone you had sex with was pregnant? as far as you know, has someone you had sex with used Plan B? I'm curious because the guys I've slept with have generally not expressed much interest in whether I've been impregnated, and when I had a pregnancy scare I kept it to myself, which is totally weird to me. If I was a guy, I think I would be all "sooooo…did you get your period yet?"

  • Kevin

    @13
    The only reason it's incorrect to call Plan B at least a possible abortion is that pregnancy is defined (by some) as beginning only when the conceptum has implanted itself into the uterine wall. But to the pro-life advocate, for whom a zygote of a single cell is already a human being with rights, pregnancy obviously begins at conception, not at any later stage.

  • Yale Guy 09

    I don't have to worry about my girlfriend being pregnant.

    Because we are mature enough to recognize the risk of pregnancy, the power of sex, and the value of human life.

    So, we abstain from sex.

    Yale students are supposed to be able to choose their classes, their careers, their ambitions.

    But I am to believe that they are incapable of controlling their own genitals?

    I feel bad for people who are imprisoned by their own horniness.

  • Anonymous

    "Sex = m * babies, where m is a positive constant inversely proportional to the correct use of contraceptives."

    Your intellect astounds me. Perhaps you to can enlighten us to what .0002 babies looks like? You can quote odds all you like, but you either get pregnant or you don't. As for sex=babies, there's no need to be a know-it-all. You knew exactly what was meant by that. The biological purpose of sex is reproduction. Even the most effective contraception still has a 2% chance of pregnancy with perfect use.

    The point is you cannot completely protect against pregnancy and it's absurd to think that you can. Abortion should not be the stop gap in the solution. Now, as to whether that is moralizing, well, I missed the memo on how morals don' belong in society. Seems to me we legislate them all the time.

  • @Yale Guy 09

    I feel bad for people who are imprisoned by outmoded belief systems and who are not emotionally mature enough to handle sex in a responsible manner.

    As for "the biological purpose of sex is reproduction"--don't be absurd. Biological processes do not have purposes. They have results. Only human minds can ascribe a "purpose" to anything in this world. I and other balanced individuals find that sex can hold the purpose of mutual enjoyment without the intent of procreation.

  • scary comments

    I'm concerned that lots of people on this comment thread appear to be repeating the false, right-wing fantasy that Plan B is a form of abortion.

    IF YOU ARE PREGNANT, PLAN B DOES NOT WORK.

    Is that clear enough for you?

  • Yale Guy 09

    @#20:

    You fingers are typing one message: "I and my partner respect each other and have mutual enjoyment from sex."

    But you body tells a different message:
    "I reject my partner in the fullest sense. I don't want to create life with him. I cannot control my sexual urges. I laugh in the face of traditional morality and so I end up believing in any number of radical notions- none of which are coherent, and none of which will bring me true joy and transcendence."

  • Hieronymus

    "'Sh*t happens,'" said Sue's terminated sister.

    "It sure beat being pregnant again," said Sue's mother, "Not to mention the dismal prospect of having another self-centered, non-reflective, spoiled offspring in addition to Sue."

    "Sh*t happens." I wonder if Sue's mother considered Sue to be "sh*t." If Sue ever allows one of her babies to breathe, how often would she have to mention that THIS one is special, i.e., this one is NOT sh*t (not like the others)…?

    [More puerile response: if "sh*t happens" during sex, then you are engaging the incorrect orifice.]

    @#22 I really liked your response: spot on!

    #20 "respects" his gf about as far as he can stretch his Mr. Happy; we all understand that no WAY no HOW is it going to amount to anything important (except maybe another terminated foetus or two).

    Part of my position (as I have written before): legal abortion may have had a time/place back when contraception was difficult to obtain and pregnancy was stigmatizing, but today, it is all about convenience.

    A) With subsidized (or, heck, FREE) birth control, an unplanned pregnancy is almost definitely the result of irresponsibility.

    B) Pregnancy carries little stigma or health risk these days, *especially* for Yalies

    C) Families would BEG to adopt a Yale baby. Even if the birth mother considers her baby to be "sh*t," some OTHER family stands ready to love it.

    Lastly: what a great time to be a guy. Don't have to be all that nice, don't have to be all that sensitive, CERTAINLY don't have to be in it for the long haul, CERTAINLY not required to be responsible or to submit to the bonds of marriage (i.e., tame his wild nature); chicks is just GIVIN' it away!

    Life is good. Right?

  • Yale med school alum, Gyn M.D.

    Correction about my earlier comment. Plan B has only the progestogen component of the pill, not the estrogen. Oral contraceptives have both hormones. The mini-pill has only progestogen. The old "morning after pill" was higher dose version of the oral contraceptive. Plan B has only the progestogen and is 1) more effective and 2) fewer side effects.

    More facts = less drama!

  • Yale Alum

    Issues of sex, pregnancy, contraception, and abortion are so loaded that any conversation about them quickly escalates into insult hurling. I find this immensely frustrating.

    I enjoyed reading the article. As someone who works on reproductive justice issues, I was surprised by how low the reported number of pregnancies at Yale was. If five is an accurate count, then it sounds like Yale women and men are doing a pretty good job of protecting themselves. I hope education, access, and support continue to abound on Yale's campus when it comes to issues of sexuality.

    I respect people's decisions to abstain from sexual intercourse, but I also respect the decisions of many others to engage in sexual relationships. For me, the focus is on caring for the woman and her partner. Feel free to react as you will, but after working in Planned Parenthood and working with abortion patients regularly, this is where I stand on the issue. In my experience choosing to support a person in crisis is more difficult than judging and criticizing--and also more moral.

  • YaleisNotRepresentativeofAll

    There is a huge world outside Yale. Think outside the box, or you will miss a much bigger issue. How about all the starving, abandoned, abused, unloved children already in the world. It's easier to tell others what to do about the unborn, than to help those born w/o food, proper medical care,etc. - Would be more helpful to the world than deciding what "morals" others should follow.

  • Hieronymus

    @#25 "Reproductive Justice"

    From whose perspective? Clearly not from that of the aborted…

    For those of you always working for the silenced, you don't see the aborted as the most effectively silence group (not) on earth?

    Talk about active ignorance!

    [Side note: "Planned"? "Parenthood?" Have you read how many referrals are made from PP to adoption agencies--versus willful ignorance of the law regarding abortion, minors, and abuse? Yup, that would be right around....zero. So much for "choice."]

  • Mother

    There are so many tangents and threads to follow in this comment section; so much emotion and theory re: birth control, Plan B, etc.

    I would just like to again reiterate that Motherhood/Parenthood is ALWAYS an option because LIFE FOR YOUR FETUS IS ALWAYS AN OPTION.

    If you've already moved beyond abstinence, and are sexually active, please remember that male and female contraception do sometimes fail. Please also remember that if you suspect you are pregnant, Plan B, or RU-486, and/or abortion are not the only resolutions you have for your consideration.

    YOU CAN SUCCESSFULLY HAVE & RAISE YOUR CHILD. Please remember that.

  • Yale Latina alum

    I completely agree with those readers who are upset at the fact that there as not enough discussion on motherhood and abstinence. As for comment #8 although those statistics are true there is so much information that can not be found in a number. I am a proud 19 year old virgin My parents have instilled in me certain values. I am also a Christian who believes sex is a sacred act that should only be performed with my husband. Yale newspaper why would you post #5?? #4 I admire you and there should be more man like yourself on Yale campus. I ask that Florence writes another article in where he/she discusses motherhood and abstinence.

  • @Yale Guy 09, H

    #20 again.

    First, your pretenses at attempting to understand my psychology are utterly ridiculous. If you could only see how you look, trying to tell me how I feel about my significant other based on my brief statement concerning my beliefs regarding the role of sex as an act. (I'll give you a hint: you look like something that rhymes with "ghouls.")

    @Yale Guy 09: Laugh in the face of traditional morality? I SPIT in the face of traditional morality. Traditional morality is a tenuously built house of cards standing on a foundation of smoke. But this is hardly the forum to debate philosophy. You simply have to accept that some people have perfectly good reasons to disregard your personal preferences, and those people will naturally find different paths to "joy and transcendence." I wish you and your partner all the happiness in the world in abstinence. And I wish you the clarity of thought to realize that people who do not share your ideals are not somehow bound by those ideals as if they were brute facts.

    @H: By this point, everyone knows that arguing with you is a waste of energy, but what the heck.

    Sure, pregnancy isn't the social catastrophe it used to be. Still, that's not a compelling reason not to have an abortion. I'll even bite your bullet that abortion today may be treated as a convenience. I say: so what? Many people believe that a zygote is no more sacred than a wart on your foot, and, to such people, the convenient processes of disposing of either should be equally legal.

    As for "what a great time to be a guy," you are sadly mistaken if you think that you have described the breadth of contemporary sexual relations. As far as any rational person should be concerned, it's all about two things: comfort and expectations. Respect the varying levels of comfort that different people have with different acts, and modify your expectations accordingly.

    Some men and some women will have sex at the drop of a hat. Kudos to them. Some will wait until they are in a committed relationship. Mad props, I say. Some will wait for marriage. If that floats their boats, may they sail on in peace!

    Am I being too charitable by believing that people are capable of making mature decisions about what they do and do not expect from their relationships with others? People make bad decisions all the time, but I nevertheless hold that they are capable of making good ones (whatever the "good ones" may be for THEM, as individuals who may be quite different from whatever you want them to be). It is not up to anyone else to make those decisions FOR said people.

  • @#29

    You're a 19-year-old Yale ALUM? Color me impressed.

    Nevertheless, your values are YOUR values. You have no business imposing them on others, particularly when the sexual activity of others in no way impinges upon the sanctity of your cherished maidenhead. I hope only that you understand this.

    Also, I like how you mention "my parents have instilled in me certain values." Is it not comforting to know that it is a mere accident of birth that you happen to believe as you do?

  • Statman

    to #26 who wrote about starving, abused, unloved children. The poster should know that in the US demand exceeds available supply. Some interesting note: the US is the only net importer of female babies. White families account for more than a quarter of African American adoptions out of foster care (despite governmental and cultural advocacy group opposition). In the past 15 years, Americans have adopted more than 200,000 babies from overseas (Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe), many of which have up to moderate disabilities (developmental delays often associated with malnourishment).

    America is a very loving, *very* giving nation. Adoption is always an option here, but rarely discussed, especially on campus where abortion is the primary, pushed option.

    Again: adoption is always an option.

  • Hieronymus

    @#30: You say "[A]bortion today may be treated as a convenience. I say: so what? Many people believe that a zygote is no more sacred than a wart on your foot, and, to such people, the convenient processes of disposing of either should be equally legal."

    How nice for you that your parents did not feel that way.

    You see, those best positioned to oppose abortion are, well, dead.

  • @Statman

    Adoption is an option if you want to go ahead and take the time, money, pain, and physical risk associated with the pregnancy. For those women who want to do that, it's their choice and they should be supported in it--but it's disingenuous to say that's so easy that there's no reason everyone shouldn't do it.

  • @H

    Come now. You should know by this point that "Aren't you lucky that you weren't aborted!" is one of the lamest of the many feeble arguments used by those who are not in favor of abortion.

    I'm not saying that we should start enforcing abortions or even encouraging abortions. Few people would suggest that (although I have heard some claims that we should, in fact, mandate abortions in certain circumstances). My parents, however, had a CHOICE or whether or not to abort the fetus that later became me. They decided to choose to let it come to term.

    If they had decided otherwise, I would, as you say, be in no place to object, because I would not exist. But again--so what? I would never have existed, so I would never have felt bad about having been aborted.

    And that is the whole point, really. Fetuses do not have thoughts. They may have the potential to become human lives, but potential does not equate with the realization of said potential.

    Of course, the reply to this is to ask whether it is therefore permissible to kill people in vegetative states. I will cut that argument off at the pass by pointing out that it is a very poor analogy. People in vegetative states do not exist as parts of the bodies of other people.

    But to get into all of that is beside the point. As far as I can tell, the only even slightly persuasive argument against abortion is the argument that fetuses constitute human lives.

    Depending on your belief system, your mileage with said argument will vary.

  • if there was no…

    im surprised no one has commented on what things would be like if plan b and abortion were not options --- doesn't yale's policy protect yale males as much as females?

  • Outraged

    How dare you pro-choice people presume to tell anyone what they should or shouldn't do in terms of their own bodies!

    Don't you have some church meetings to attend? Some prayer sessions outside of abortion clinics and doctors to harass? Leave the young women at Yale alone. It's their body and they can do with it what they want. I think it's the height of responsibility for young women to take charge of their bodies and their reproductive health by seeking out whatever is necessary to prevent unplanned pregnancies up to and including abortion if necessary.

  • Anon

    Re #35: if fetuses aren't human lives, what kind of lives are they? Another species?

    Abortion really is a human rights issue -- at what point are human rights granted? Conception? Viability? Birth? Some time later?

  • #22

    Hieronymus,

    I find myself agreeing with you quite a bit on many articles.

    Too bad I have no idea who you are.

  • @38

    Typically, pro-abortionists are anti-death penalty, i.e., in favor of terminating the innocent while against terminating the guilty. Weird.

  • @Anon

    "Life" is just a term that we give to chemical systems of a certain degree of complexity, just as "mind" is a term that we give to the results of brain activity of a certain degree of complexity.

    When someone ends a human life, we are not upset that a body with similar molecules to ours has ceased to function in its usual manner. What angers (and frightens) us is the cessation of a human mind. When we talk about human life, that's what we really care about.

    It's not the fact that we have one type of DNA and ants have another type of DNA that makes us care so much more about our deaths than about those of ants. It's that we are sapient and ants are not.

    That a human fetus is technically of the human species because it has human DNA is immaterial. It is not sapient, so we should see no more reason to give it special rights than we see reason to give special rights to ants or fish or dogs. (Of course, some people do want to extend human-level rights to all animals, but that's a discussion for another time.)

    Of course, sapience itself, as I mentioned at the very beginning, is an arbitrarily determined construct. We have to decide when the human animal becomes aware "enough" to deserve rights. I think we can all agree, however, that this does not occur in the early stages of pregnancy.

  • @#40

    Nobody is pro-abortion. Saying things like that is counter-productive.

    I think what it comes down to is this: should the moral qualms of some be imposed on all? Even though I strongly favor adoption over abortion, I still have to say "No" to that question.

    You also have to admit that a lot of people who call themselves pro-life don't mind that some criminals are put to death. Me, I figure that both reducing the number unwanted babies AND the number of incurable criminals will ultimately lead to a more stable society.

  • Hieronymus

    @#30 & #41, etc.

    I used to think like you do. Really. I did.

    But the "Life has no meaning" schtick really gets old. These collections of molecules, these minds; heck, The Big Bang.

    Ask yourself, re: all this stuff:

    Why bother?

    Why would all these something spring from…nothing?

    You see: if it really all means nothing, if everything really is relevant, then why aren't more people raping/pillaging/looting? Surely it is not simply the fear of the rule of law? Why bother with *any* ethics, morality, rules? (Sadly, a number of folks have taken such thinking to its logical extreme, even taking others' lives "just to see what it would feel like." But then…why not?)

    Why work so hard to get into Yale? To graduate?

    It is all so easy, so amusing to rail against Life, the Universe, Everything from the safety of the Yale campus, from the bubble lives we have lived (and will very likely continue to live).

    Out there: people kill on a daily basis (for example). Tortured, gassed, knifed, stoned, aborted. So what. Who cares.

    I used to think that way; indeed, I defended abortion clinics, even agreed with Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood) with regard to suppressing the procreation of "the underclasses." (And trust me: it's weird to be on the other side of that argument now.)

    But stating, e.g., that "sapience…is an arbitrarily determined construct" does not make it so.

    Yalies of yore knew this instinctively. Our parents worked very hard to destroy that instinct (thanks, Boomers!). And what have we gotten to replace it?

    From observation (and now, apparently, science), Man is built to believe. You think atheists (at least those who proclaim themselves such) are any less religious, dogmatic, and proseletyzing than Fundies?

    You think Hillary Clinton does not bow down to some figurative altar? Some G-d?

    I ramble. I digress.

    Your "belief" that we are here for nothing more than personal pleasure may be as powerful (to you) as someone's belief in a redeemer; but which belief results in greater harmony.

    Is it better to model oneself after a sybarite or, say, Jesus? (And I write this fully understanding the risk of having to deflect the red herring of, e.g., the Crusades, but whatever).

    If human life is not precious, what is? I, for one, find it a very, very small step to go from callousness re: "a clump of cells that merely happen to hold my DNA" to callousness re:everything else. Indeed, I think we are observing that very thing in our lifetimes.

    [Playing Devil's own advocate: Conservatives must be true believers in the importance of human life--all human life; else, given that those who choose abortion are statistically skewed towards those groups that Conservatives purportedly abhor--e.g., Liberals, minorities, etc.--the rational stance would be to support expanded termination services worldwide."

    Last point: what if you are wrong? What if everything you think is just…wrong? Or what if at some later date you, say, change your mind?

    I was walking down the street today and it struck me just how magic it all is: cars driving by (complex collections of mobile systems), buds on the trees (why do they bother?), people talking (to what end?).

    From dust--not even dust but…from…nothing--you really think that all this just sprang up? For no reason?

    Why bother?

    Cui bono?

  • an unlucky sperm

    "O, woe is me!"
    said the unlucky sperm.
    "I never made it to an egg.
    Someone took Plan B instead."
    If only they had said instead,
    "Every Sperm Is Sacred!"

    O, the selfish killers,
    that kept me away from that egg
    that stopped us from becoming
    a zygote, an embryo, a baby.

    They are almost as bad
    as those who commit the sin of masturbation
    spilling millions just like me
    in a sock.

    Perhaps it will help if I pretend
    That I made it to the egg.
    In pretend-land, in my dreams, Plan B
    works by stopping pregnancy!
    Then someone will feel bad for little me.
    They'll think of me as a mini-baby
    Instead of just a squirmy sperm,
    One of millions.

  • Yet another recent alum

    Do pro-life people really so badly misunderstand the facts of life that they think Plan B aborts a zygote?

    Um… I don't know how to put this any more delicately, but when the man has an orgasm, that doesn't mean sperm has met the egg. It usually takes days after sex for sperm and egg to meet. Plan B works by preventing the sperm from meeting the egg. That's why you have to take it quickly, before this has happened. Whatever you think of abortion, Plan B is not it.

    Take some intro bio, pro-life people. Please.

  • Modest Proposal

    All women must take birth-control pills regularly, or else I believe they should be charged with the murder of the babies -- the eggs -- they expel monthly in menstruation.

    Only by suppressing this biological process can we save the egg-babies?

    What's that you say? Eggs aren't babies? I won't hear it! Save the babies! Life is an option! Choose life! Someone will adopt your eggs! Don't flush them down the toilet every month!

  • @H

    Ah yes. The familiar argument from "everything is just too complicated for it to be random and meaningless."

    I, too, frequently stop and marvel at the complexity of the universe. Honestly, I do. There are days when I stop and think (completely sober) "Isn't it crazy how we're surrounded by countless tons of AIR?"

    But I don't let my sense of wonder get in the way of my better judgment. There is no meaning to life but what humanity creates.

    Now, you're starting to wade into philosophical waters, which I really wanted to avoid--in fact, I still want to avoid it. As much as I would like to respond to everything else you have said (and believe me, my fingers are itching), this is not the proper forum for it.

    This is the end. You're going to think you're right. I'm going to think I'm right. The difference is, I'm the one who is actually right. (And you are going to think the same.)

    :)

    Actually, there is one key difference between us. I'm willing to let you believe whatever delusions you want as long as you kindly stay out of my business.

  • Hieronymus

    @#47. "I'm the one who is actually right."

    See, thing is: I am most definitely NOT sure that there is a Higher Power or Purpose (let's call it G-d). You seem, if I am inferring correctly, absolutely sure that there isn't.

    Help a brother out: how can you be so sure? Seriously, I am interested.

  • YDN reader

    This is one of the all-time amazing YDN comment threads. A bunch of educated people, but half of you really seem to believe in "sperm magic," where male orgasm immediately produces a "baby" that we can have a debate about whether to abort.

    Earth to pro-life Yalies: Plan B works by preventing the sperm and the egg from meeting. There's a little bit of speculation out there that there could in theory also be a post-fertilization effect of taking Plan B, but the best available scientific evidence suggests that this does not actually happen in real life. Anyway, even people who believe that this secondary effect exists all agree that the main effect, preventing the sperm from meeting the egg, is the way Plan B works nearly all the time -- and ALL the time if you take Plan B soon enough after sex.

    So can we please get on the clue train and stop pretending that Plan B is "abortion"?

  • Hieronymus

    @#47 post script (io the "in vino veritas" variety):

    Lemme help you out: I used to be so so sure, SO sure that it was all a big farce, that we were alone, completely, utterly alone.

    I figured that death was like that time I went under anaesthesia for surgery--you know, you wake up and, due to the amnesiac drugs, ask the doctor "so when are you going to start." A forgetfulness that is not even blackness, no time, no anything.

    I figured Life was meaningless and Death was pure nothingness.

    So I ask you (assuming that your thinking is similar): how can you be sure?

  • YLS '07

    @44, Very nice, unlucky sperm.

    We'll see if the anti-"abortion" crusaders on this thread are actually able to understand your satire.

  • ?

    Um, while I'm sure some of you people really enjoy spouting off about your personal views of the meaning of life, I fail to see what this has to do with the topic of this YDN story, which was pregnancy at Yale -- Plan B, etc.

    I find it somewhat annoying that some people feel the need to inject their views of the meaning of life into this discussion -- not because they're wrong, but just because it's so irrelevant. Whether there is or isn't a "higher power," Yalies and other women everywhere need access to safe, reliable contraceptives such as Plan B and other reproductive health services. And abortions too. That's right. Even in a world with a "higher power," women have the right to personal sovereignty over their bodies.

    Your "higher power" may disagree, because it thinks suspiciously like you do. But I have no trouble imagining a "higher power" that favors abortion rights. In fact, I have a hard time imagining a "higher power" that doesn't, except in the imaginations of annoying people who believe the whole universe is arranged around their personal, rather retro, gender views.

  • Stats

    You said condoms fail 11% of the time…which means 11 out of 100 Yalies will get pregnant from using condoms.

    That is false. Statistically incorrect. The number would be far, far smaller.

  • @53 stats

    not really. if the condom fails it doesn't mean you'll get preg for sure..
    ;)

  • Sam I am.

    By Yet another recent alum

    I don't need an intro to bio class to read the manufactures site. http://www.go2planb.com/plan-b-prescribers/how-plan-b-works.aspx

    If you inhibit the implantation of a fertilized egg (we old fashioned truth tellers call that a baby) you prevent a baby from being born 9 months later. (learned that in intro to bio)

    You are incorrect Plan B can result in an abortion.

  • Sam I am

    #46 By Modest Proposal (Unregistered User)

    egg and sperm…

    You were one once….

  • Sam I'm not

    @55 -

    Sam, the primary mechanism by which Plan B works, every scientist agrees, is by preventing the egg from meeting the sperm. By preventing ovulation.

    If you want to learn more, here's a detailed explanation:
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/04/why_the_wingnuts_hate_plan_b.php

    That's why the manufacturer says "possibly" on the page you cite regarding the theory that there could possibly be a post-fertilizatoin effect. They need to avoid being sued, so they acknowledge the theoretical possibility of such an effect, but this is really not the basic way Plan B works.

  • On kooky kabuki

    Do any of you people really SERIOUSLY believe that a fertilized, unimplanted egg is a person?

    What if it divides into twins? Was it secretly two "unique" people from the start, or does one "unique" person become two?

    What if the egg never meets a sperm, but is injected with genetic material and begins to divide and grow, eventually becoming a fetus? The moment of "personhood" is what, when the egg got a full complement of genes? What if we can train a cell swabbed from your cheek to act like a fertilized egg and become a fetus and eventually a person? Does that mean the cell was always a person, on your view, since it always had a full complement of genes?

    More practical problems are obvious:

    Do you really believe that normal menstruation, which disposes of a huge number of fertilized eggs -- possibly the majority -- is a holocaust of epic proportions?

    Or try this one. You're in an IVF facility. There's a fire. In the waiting room there's a young family of four, two parents, an infant, a toddler. For some reason they can only escape the fire with your help. But you have to decide whether to help them, or save TEN THOUSAND FERTILIZED EGGS. You can only save one or the other. Do you really advocate leaving the family to die? If you believe you're saving 10,000 "people" versus 5, then that's your only choice… right?

    I don't believe you people really believe what you say you believe. I think it's just kabuki theater. You want to stop abortion, so you pretend you really believe things about a one-celled organism that are utterly implausible. In real life, instead of ideology-land, you'd never treat a single-celled fertilized egg or even a blastocyst as equal to a real "person." You'd always save one real person, as against thousands of those notional "persons." In other words, it's all BS.

    Now can we get back to talking about reproductive health and contraception, please?

  • @ #20

    "As for "the biological purpose of sex is reproduction"--don't be absurd. Biological processes do not have purposes… I and other balanced individuals find that sex can hold the purpose of mutual enjoyment…"

    …sex has no purpose… sex has the purpose of enjoyment… contradiction much?
    ever thought that sex might have been CREATED as a means for enjoyment, unity, love, and procreation all wrapped into one wonderful bundle IN MARRIAGE?

    Everything has a purpose. Many times we (myself included) selfishly struggle against the knowledge that God created something to exist only within certain limits (marriage)-- limits that we find difficult to wait for. Instead we strip that something (sex, in this case) of its worth by misusing it and justifying that misuse with our own purposeless sense of "purpose."

    Sex-- it's more than temporary enjoyment that gives you a momentary high and leaves you with a permanent itch for satiation you'll always feel compelled to scratch and scratch and scratch again. If you do it outside of marriage, outside of commitment and safety and love, no amount of scratching is going to alleviate that itch.

  • Monty Python

    @56, I heartily agree. How dare the callous, horrible people on this thread suggest that only diploid cells are people. Haploid cells are people too!

    Every sperm is sacred!

  • Recent Alum

    #57: Yes, we are all very interested in clicking on a link titled "why_the_wingnuts_hate_plan_b". Sounds like someone who is going to be effective at convincing people who disagree with him; not a hack at all.

  • got pregnant at another Ivy

    #58 You are my kind of person! Love the forced choice of save the kids or save the eggs. Logic is good. Facts are good. I had my baby when I got pregnant in college. Had another one. Then I had several abortions. I made the choices right for me. It was very difficult to be in school with babies. Then I went to grad school with them too. It was so hard I got ill. Kids are work! To everyone so ready to make the product of conception into a nice little bundle to be adopted out. STOP! It is cruel to make babies to give them away. For all of you with fanciful imaginations about the aborted. Here is what it is like: remember before you were conceived? Of course you don't. Same thing. My 'babies' are now out of college. After the abortions I had another and he is now in college. Life is good- use your condoms and common sense.

  • Sam I'm not, again

    @61,

    Yes, for the sake of all that is good and beautiful, DO NOT CLICK that link.

    In fact, do not read anything Pharyngula ever has to say -- especially not a clear, simple, layman's discussion of how plan B works. After all, he is a Bio professor frustrated with all the wingnuttery around Plan B who has the temerity to refer in his post title to the wingnuttery around Plan B. Clearly, if you disagree with that point of view, you must avert your eyes! Don't click that link! (If you did, you might actually have to engage with an argument with which you don't agree, and that must be avoided at all costs!)

  • Sam I'm not, again

    @ 59,

    Birds do it

    Bees do it

    … And yet you say you "selfishly struggle against the knowledge that God created [it] to exist only within certain limits (marriage)."

    Okay, that's your view. But… "knowledge?" Really? You _know_ your deity of choice did this?

    I mean, okay, it's one thing if you say you have a theory that unlike what birds do and what bees do, sex among humans was "created" by a deity for use in marital circumstances only -- of which you presumably mean the man-woman kind of marriage only (I doubt you condone the non-hetero marriages either from the era of Jesus or from contemporary Connecticut). So, okay, your deity created sex for use in hetero marriage only.

    This is at least a slightly weird theory, given that marriage has only existed for a comparatively brief chunk of human history. Unless you're some kind of young-earth Creationist, you probably have to acknowledge that lots of humans had sex before there was marriage. (Sinners!)

    And marriage itself has evolved humongously over the past few centuries, differs from one human culture to another, and continues to evolve today. But whatever, you can still have your view that sex was "created" to be used in concert with some particular form of marriage that humans would later come up with. The only thing that leaves me totally incredulous is that you don't call this your view, you call it "knowledge." You just know. That is very impressive. Um… care to enlighten the rest of us how you "know" that your chosen deity shares your particular views about sex?

  • and another one goes off the rails

    This YDN comment thread is very long. Up at the top, there's some discussion and debate relevant to the article. A woman mentions a bad experience seeking EC and DUH. A mother points out that not all pregnancies among Yalies are unwanted/unplanned. True enough. But somewhere along the way, things went off the rails. About halfway through, the thread starts to fill with a lot of comments literally about the "meaning of life," personal religious convictions about the divine significance of sex, and some harangues directed at all Yalies to "choose life," etc. The rarely relevant, always self-indulgent commentaries of some familiar commenters start to pop up, as if just to annoy everyone else. And although it's hard to guess the genders of a lot of you commenters, I have the distinct sense that as this discussion went off the rails, the people doing the digressing got a lot more male. People who see a story about women's reproductive health choices at Yale as a good time for a long, self-indulgent rant about their personal philosophy of life tend to be men. Not just any men, mind you -- this is not a criticism of men in general -- but a particular kind of dude with whom I am very familiar, from having had to listen to them fill too much of the airtime in many a Yale seminar.

    The only point I want to make here is: reproductive health is important. Even if you have anti-abortion views, you really shouldn't let your focus on abortion distract you completely from the whole set of issues surrounding reproductive health. These questions -- like access to emergency contraception -- are too important for that.

    By the way, in a very large proportion of cases, taking EC prevents an abortion that would otherwise have taken place. So everyone should favor making EC more widely available at Yale for those who need it.

  • Anonymous

    Gosh. I'm surprised to see so many misogynist posts. I guess it's a vocal minority.

  • Anonymous

    @7--
    "Zeta Psi gets lynched and yet 21% of Yale girls thought they were pregnant?"

    Seriously? So sexually active women are all "sluts"?

  • YLS '07

    @66 & @67,

    There's always a fair amount of misogyny just below the surface -- and you see more of it whenever there's a comment thread that offers anonymity. At least with a policy of anonymity + moderation, really graphic hateful misogyny gets screened out. But misogynistic slut-bashing and similar stuff is pretty standard for anonymous comment threads everywhere, including at Yale.

    For some reason, talking about contraception and abortion REALLY brings out the misogyny in certain people.

  • Quinnipiac Student

    This is a great story. I wish our paper would do something along these lines.

  • question

    One question about this story. Why did the author think it was useful to discuss whether there's a "limit" on the "number of abortions" a student can have?

    There's a right-wing fantasy that women use abortion as a form of birth control, having lots of abortions. But in reality, there was no evidence in the article to suggest that any Yale student has EVER had more than one abortion. Did the author bother to ask whether anyone had ever sought more than one abortion? I seriously doubt that this has ever happened in the history of Yale. Abortions are very rare among Yalies as it is. So, I'm not sure how relevant it really is to get into this scandalous talk of "limits" as though to emphasize "ooooh, so a Yale student could have lots of abortions!"

    In any event, there is no reason for a "limit" policy for abortion or for any other medical procedure. It is doctors, along with patients, who decide which medical procedures are necessary and/or appropriate in which cases.

  • advocate for life

    I agree with the pro life people posting above. Of COURSE women at Yale who become pregnant should be supported in their right to choose to have children. Academic leave policies, housing situations, emotional support networks… all of these things are sorely lacking for Yale women who would become mothers. Because abortion and contraception are so contested, people who support women's right to decide on this matter - really choose - and not to feel pressured to terminate pregnancies due to medical, academic, social, and financial difficulties - often forget to work to support initiatives that will help those who choose to have children. This is something that is truly non-partisan, that both "pro choice" and "pro life" should work on, preferably together.

    As you might deduce from the above comments, I am in support of women's right to abortion. Yet too often the debate is about abortion and contraception, when advocacy for women needs to encompass all sides of this issue. Support for those who are going to adopt their children. Eradication of shame and stigmatization of students who are visibly pregnant. Academic policies that recognize that life happens, women get pregnant sometimes, and that people should be supported in their decisions to raise families - and not make it a big crazy deal to take time off school. As a pro-CHOICE feminist, I would like to see more support for women who choose to become mothers, as well as women who choose not to.

    It would be interesting to see what options for male birth control Yale is offering. Do they perform vasectomies for male students? Is it reasonable to obtain one? So much attention is paid to policing what women do with their bodies, but men are half of this equation.

  • FYI

    IUDs are another excellent form of contraception, and are available through the health plan. They can last up to 10 years, and through Yale, will cost up to $100 for the device (if you haven't already paid out that much for your deductible in one semester, you will have to pay it all for the IUD, so it might be a good idea, if possible, to get it at the end of semester when you've already bought medicines.) After that, you will not need to pay for birth control again for many years, other than having the normal, routine OB/GYN well-woman checkups once a year, which you should be doing anyway for pap smears! Here are a few other things you'll need to know about obtaining an IUD at Yale.

    1) there are 2 kinds: paraguard (copper, toxic to sperm, does not release hormones) and mirena (which releases dosages of birth control hormones.)

    2) the medical staff will probably tell you that you shouldn't use an IUD unless you are in a "committed monogamous relationship." It's absurd - you have the right to any form of birth control that you feel is best for you. The IUD does not protect against STDs, just pregnancy. So you MUST continue to use condoms for protection against STDs. Make it clear to your health provider that you understand, and take responsibility for, this information. Then - actually take responsibility for it.

    3) They may try to tell you that you should wait until your period to have it inserted, and when your period comes, they will screw you around and tell you that no appointments are available. You do NOT need to wait if your schedule does not permit making random medical appointments the day-of or they "can't fit you in." You can insist upon making an advance appointment at a convenient time for you. Having an IUD inserted during menstruation reduces the risk of accidental expulsion of the IUD by a tiny amount, but as long as your provider is experienced at inserting them, you can be totally fine getting an IUD at any time of the month.

    4) The IUD can cause some truly weird, uncomfortable cramps for the first few weeks. Nothing unbearable (at least for me) but they can feel really weird and sometimes painful. It should go away, and of course, always contact your doctor if you have any concern whatsoever about it!

    5) The actual insertion of the IUD hurts a little bit, but it's uncomfortable and kind of a "pinch." It is not unbearable, but it's unpleasant. The staff do their best to be gentle and supportive, and do a very good job of talking you through the procedure, explaining what they are doing, and being comforting. If you are very terrified or have a low pain threshhold, you should discuss your options with your provider. You may be advised to take an anti-pain medicine or have a shot of anaesthesia, but only your provider will determine what is best for your needs. Don't take a pain medicine beforehand without express permission from the doctor!!!

    6) You will need to physically feel, on a regular basis, to see if the IUD is still in your body. A string hangs past your cervix, and you need to feel that it is still there and the IUD hasn't fallen out. Generally, there is no good reason it would ever fall out accidentally, but this is just part of the responsibility of using this form of birth control.

  • Teenage Problems

    Teen pregnancy is an important issue. There are health risks for the baby and children born to teenage mothers are more likely to suffer health, social, and emotional problems. Women who become pregnant during their teens have an increased risk for complications, such as premature labor and socioeconomic consequences as well. Many times these <A HREF=http://www.restoreteens.com/0/Teenage-Problems>teenage girls problems</A> lead them towards addiction, depression, anxiety and some antisocial activities. We have to support responsible policies that will increase the use of contraception and provide more education to teens, parents, and young adults.
    http://www.restoreteens.com/0/Teenage-Problems