Finds New Economic Plight: Textbooks or Birth Control

It was just a matter of time I suppose. What with Sen. Barack Obama's popularity with college students and the economy being the number one issue for voters, the media finally have an excuse to put a more youthful spin on the classic food vs. prescription drugs meme. A changing media environment, after all, calls for new angles at the same old bias. Someone had to give it the old college try.

Somewhere out there some college co-ed is making an agonizing decision: textbooks or birth control.

Fortunately for America's college-aged voters, is picking up the banner on this issue:

Erin McKenna, a junior at the University of Pittsburgh, admits that she sometimes has to choose between purchasing textbooks for school and paying for her birth-control prescription.

"I have two jobs and I still can't afford it," McKenna said.

It is the type of decision that more and more college women are facing since a provision in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 ended the practice of drug companies providing birth-control medicines to colleges at a steep discount.

Birth-control advocates call the price increase a crisis, while promoters of sexual abstinence say colleges should be stressing alternatives to contraceptives.

As reporter Julia Hoppock noted in her April 24 article, the issue is complete with at least one B-list celebrity supporter and some powerful Democratic backers:

McKenna and a group of other college students, along with actress Amber Tamblyn, went to Washington, D.C., this week to lobby Congress for passage of a bill that would restore the discounts.

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Joseph Crowley D-N.Y. along with Sen. Claire McCaskill D-Mo., and presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama D-Ill., is called the Prevention Through Affordable Access Act. It has been introduced in both the Senate and House, but has yet to be passed.

Before the deficit bill passed, drug companies were allowed to provide discounted birth-control medicines in an effort to forge brand loyalty with women. But language in the act made them unable to continue the practice, which Crowley says was an unintended result of the legislation.

The problem is so bad, it could be a "crisis," Hoppock hinted, finding another co-ed to to hype the issue:

Birth-control advocates worry the price increase could put contraceptives out of reach of some women and lead to unwanted pregnancy.

The price increase is forcing some college students to make tough choices.

University of Nevada senior None Wainwright says the price increase has "really taken a toll."

She was able to get two more months' worth of discounted contraceptives because her pharmacy had stockpiled the cheaper birth control, but when that runs out, she's not sure what she'll do.

"I'm debating what my next move will be," Wainwright said.

Economy Sexuality Culture/Society Birth Control ABC Media Business Online Media Government & Press Julia Hoppock