Birth Control Town Hall Draws Interested Crowds

By Grace Mottley 

“Dude, I don’t want to touch that.” Incredulous men rub their arms and squirm as they pass around a diagram of Nexaplanon, a form of birth control that requires arm implementation. They pull at the strings of an IUD, then lean back to listen to the panelists explain ways to prevent unwanted pregnancy. 

On Monday, SGA held their annual Take Control: A Birth Control Town Hall. Four panelists, Ming Gault, Mary Jelacic, Olivia Mays, and Parisa Rhabar, representatives from Planned Parenthood, the Pregnancy Aid Center, and the University Health Center, respectively, spoke to the crowd about contraceptives, sexual wellness and answered questions from the crowd. 

“A lot of people don’t know that the Health Center has free birth control consultations, so this is a great way to get a lot of information out to the community at once,” said SGA Health and Wellness Director Colleen Hermann

The four began by explaining the different forms of birth control their respective organizations offered and the costs of using each. 

Olivia Mays, a sexual health program assistant with the University Health Center, discussed the different programs that are available on campus, including free birth control consultations. The Health Center offers oral contraceptives, as well as implanted methods such as Nexplanon, the intrauterine IUD, the ring, the patch, and shots. 

“We want to make sure that you’re getting the right information and making informed decisions,” she said. “People often come in during consultations and present misinformation to me, so we want to make sure they have all the information to make the right decision.” 

Ming Gault, the representative from Planned Parenthood, addressed the affordability of birth control and subsidized options at local Planned Parenthood centers.

If you go to our health center, we have a sliding scale based on your income, and if you’re not making any money because you’re a student, we can work with you even with no income,” Gault said. “But, if you’re under the age of 20 we have what we call ‘teen pricing options’ which is up to $25 at most at any health center.” 

The panelists also addressed communicating with partners about sexual wellness and birth control. 

“Girls were taught just to not get pregnant,” said Rhabar. “There needs to be more equality about these circumstances.”

Mays discussed ways to bring up birth control, including using condoms and dental dams, to a partner. 

“Just because you’re not the one taking birth control doesn’t mean you don’t need to worry about this,” she said. “Definitely be having those conversations beforehand.” 

Sophomore public policy major Alon Sherman was glad to have a conversation about the ways that men can play a role in preventing unwanted pregnancies. 

“A lot of the brunt of birth control is not done from the guy’s side, so I really wanted to see what more I could know, and how to engage with the community,” he said. 

The crowd, made up of over 35 attendees, was made up largely of members of Greek life fraternities and members of the SGA legislative and executive branches. 

Attendance for the event went up from the event last year, which had about 25 in attendance last year, according to Hermann. Hermann says that the attendance went up because of SGA reached out to more groups and constituencies before this event. 

The American Medical Women’s Association, Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Association, Changing Health Attitudes and Actions to Recreate Girls, and Student Health Advisory Committee all co-sponsored the event. These groups reached out to their constituencies and encouraged them to attend the panel. 

“Everyone should know about it, it affects all of us,” said IFC Vice President of Internal Affairs Dan Alpert.

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of lookcatalog’s Flickr account.

Grace Mottley is a journalism student at the University of Maryland. 

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