Posts Tagged ‘birth control’

Citizens voice opinions to Donnelly on surveillance bill, family planning services

March 7, 2008

[The following are two citizen-produced opinion pieces that appeared recently in the South Bend Tribune. – DW]

Donnelly Wrong on Surveillance Bill

As reported in The Tribune, U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger, voted to allow a vote on a resolution to extend the Protect America Act. Although the measure failed, the House will likely revisit this issue in the future.

We, the board of the League of Women Voters of South Bend, urge Donnelly to take a stand against the administration’s pressure to pass S. 2248, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2007. We also urge Congress to support legislation that will ensure that government agencies obtain individual court warrants before wiretapping the communications of Americans and make sure telecommunications providers do not receive blanket retroactive immunity for violating the rights of innocent citizens.

For 88 years the League of Women Voters has been a strong advocate of the democratic principles that serve as a bedrock of our republic. Certain fundamental principles guard our freedoms and these must be preserved. These include independent judicial review of law enforcement actions and prohibition on indiscriminate searches.

While we recognize that our nation must guard against terrorism and other threats to national security, it cannot violate basic Constitutional principles while claiming to protect itself. As such, wholesale warrantless wiretapping of Americans is unacceptable.

Lisa A. Plencner
President, League of Women Voters,
South Bend area


Title X funds low-cost family planning services

I am writing in response to the Feb. 28 article in The Tribune by staff writer Margaret Fosmoe titled, “IUSB petitioners demand cost drop on birth control.” I applaud the students and employees who gathered signatures and delivered the petitions to U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger.

The article highlighted the need for individuals (including Donnelly) to be educated about the Federal Title X program and the Olive Street Health Center. The Olive Street Health Center is located on the west side of South Bend.

The Federal Title X program is designed to provide access to contraceptive supplies and preventive health services to all who want and need them with priority given to low-income persons. The U.S. government’s Title X program funds low-cost, confidential family planning services that would otherwise be out of reach for many women.

The Olive Street Health Center is funded by the federal Title X program through the Indiana Family Health Council Inc. Services are provided on a sliding scale based on income; people at or below the federal poverty level receive services at no cost. Most importantly, no one is refused family planning services because of inability to pay. Title X funds cannot be used to provide abortions. In fact, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, publicly funded family planning services help women avoid an estimated 1.3 million unintended pregnancies each year, half of which otherwise would be terminated by abortion. Each year, approximately 4.5 million people receive health-care services at Title X-funded clinics.Being a publicly funded health center allows the center to qualify for discounted public health pricing on medications and contraceptive supplies. We also experienced a price increase as a result of the 2005 deficit reduction bill, however, not to the extent that the IUSB Health Center and other non-publicly supported clinics have experienced. The clinic continues to be able to assure that affordable birth control is available to those who want and need it. For example, the clinic charges $4 a month for birth control pills, $17 a month for the NuvaRing, and $8 for each dose of emergency contraception (Plan B/morning-after pill). This is significantly less than what the IUSB Health Center must charge to cover their cost for these same contraceptive supplies. The Olive Street Health Center also distributes free condoms.

In addition to contraceptive services and related counseling, the Olive Street Health Center also provides a number of preventative health services such as: client education and counseling; breast and pelvic examinations; cervical cancer, STD and HIV screenings; and pregnancy diagnosis and counseling. For many clients, Olive Street Health Center is their only source of health care and health education.

Title X regulations require that all clients, including adolescents, receive confidential care. Therefore, the Olive Street Health Center encourages but does not mandate parental involvement in an adolescent’s decision to seek services at the clinic.

I applaud The Tribune for covering important women’s health issues such as the need for continued access to affordable birth control. I ask for The Tribune’s assistance in educating individuals about the services offered at the Olive Street Health Center in their effort to focus on important women’s health issues. The Olive Street Health Center is located at 244 S. Olive Street, South Bend. The phone number is (574) 282-3230.

Melinda Konrath is director of the Olive Street Health Center. She lives in Mishawaka.


Women demand Donnelly help cut cost of birth control

February 28, 2008

(from the South Bend Tribune. Emphasis in the text below by Donnelly Watch)

Tribune Staff Writer

SOUTH BEND — Some Indiana University South Bend students and employees are demanding that Congress take action to reverse a steep hike in the cost of birth-control pills sold at the campus health center.

Prices for oral contraceptives last year began doubling and tripling at college health centers, the result of a complex change in the Medicaid rebate law that essentially ended an incentive for drug companies to provide deep discounts to colleges.

IUSB students and employees recently delivered a petition with 600 signatures gathered on campus to the local office of U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger. Spearheaded by IUSB’s Feminist Student Union, the petition demands that Congress restore affordable birth control to colleges. It urges Donnelly to push his congressional colleagues and take action to reverse the price hikes.

IUSB has been dispensing prescription birth control for about five years, since the campus Health and Wellness Center was established. The center also sells emergency contraceptives (the “morning-after” pill) and provides free condoms. The center is not open to the general public.

IUSB senior Erin Tracey, 26, of Niles, started taking birth-control pills several years ago after a physician prescribed them to treat dysmenorrhea (cramps and painful menstruation) and adult acne. Tracey’s health insurance does not cover the cost.The name-brand version recommended by her doctor is not available at IUSB because of the high price, $50 to $60 a month, so she buys a generic version at the health center for $15 a month. “A couple years ago it would have been much less expensive,” she said.

Tracey said the name-brand version is more expensive than she can afford.

She signed the petition and helped collect signatures. “It’s important to me because I strongly believe that sex education and access to affordable birth control would prevent abortion and unwanted pregnancies,” she said.

The price hike at colleges is the result of a chain reaction started by a 2005 federal deficit-reduction bill that focused on Medicaid. Before the change, pharmaceutical companies typically sold drugs at deep discounts to a range of health care providers, including colleges. For drug companies, one motivation was attracting loyal customers.

The discounts didn’t count against the drug companies in a formula calculating rebates they owed states to participate in Medicaid.But in the 2005 bill — which went into effect in early 2007 — Congress changed that. Discounts to colleges mean drug companies have to pay more to participate in Medicaid. So fewer companies offer discounts.

Before the price hike, IUSB students and employees paid about $10 for a month’s worth of name-brand birth-control pills.

The fee now is about $15 a month, and that’s for generics. The center stocks three brands of generic birth-control pills, because the name-brand prices have increased so much, said Laura Hieronymus, director of IUSB’s health center. “We can’t afford to purchase the more expensive brands,” she said.

The price compares to about $32 a month for generics at a commercial pharmacy, she said.

Women sometimes are prescribed birth-control pills for various health conditions, not just to prevent pregnancy, she noted. “The (varieties) we have work well for some students but not for all,” she said. The issue isn’t about providing inexpensive birth control to young single college students, Hieronymus said. “The majority of women we take care of are married and have kids and families,” she said. About 40 percent of IUSB’s students are over 26 years old.

Providing economical, reliable birth control is a way to prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortions, she said.

IUSB no longer stocks the NuvaRing, a once-a-month form of contraception, because its price rose to more than $40 per month, she said. “The NuvaRing was our No. 1 seller,” Hieronymus said.

IUSB has dispensed about 150 monthly packs of birth-control pills since August, serving at least 50 students and employees. The center has dispensed about 30 morning-after doses since August, at $20 per dose. About 1,000 free condoms have been distributed on campus this academic year.

At the campus health center, students and employees can receive a physical exam, be treated for minor illnesses, and get prescriptions filled. About 30 percent of the center’s business is related to women’s health issues. As a nurse practitioner, Hieronymus can legally write and dispense prescriptions. IUSB is among four IU campuses that sell prescription contraceptives at on-campus health centers. The others are IU Bloomington, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

“The rising price is indicative of the general upward trend in health-care costs and drug prices,” Donnelly said in a written statement issued Wednesday. “More than that, it’s indicative of a federal government that is constrained in what it can do to help people with those rising costs by a budget that is deep in deficit.”

(Why is the federal government so constrained, Joe? Could it be that the incredibly expensive and disastrous War in Iraq has something to do with it? – DW)

The congressman said he’s tackling both problems at the same time: working to make health care and prescription drugs more affordable, and working to reduce the deficit. Sound fiscal policies will make it easier for the federal government to invest in health programs for everyone, especially those in the working and middle classes, Donnelly said.

About 39 percent of undergraduate women use oral contraceptives, according to an estimate by the American College Health Association based on survey data.

IUSB student Alyssa Malott, 20, of South Bend, doesn’t buy contraceptives at the campus health center, but she is concerned about how rising prices will affect students, employees and their families.The price hike “affects many people in many ways,” Malott said. Some people on campus might not be able to afford the higher prices, she said. “If even one student had to drop out of school (as a result), it’s an outrage,” she said.