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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Birth control costly, a hassle? Kids not cheap, AIDS deadly

Mary Mitchell's column today. This is something that struck me...
Young people who are fortunate enough to get into universities like UIC are supposed to be smart.
But how ignorant is it for a young black woman to be photographed clutching a cell phone and a swollen belly complaining about not being able to afford the rising cost of birth control?

Did it ever occur to Elizabeth Harris, the young woman who appeared on page 8 in the Chicago Sun-Times, that maybe she should have gotten rid of her cell phone instead of stopping her birth control pills?

Black readers are likely to blame the newspaper for being "insensitive" for running the young woman's photo in the first place. Still, it's too easy to blame a reporter because a story leads to young black women being ridiculed on talk shows as "sexually irresponsible," because one of them was foolish enough to whine about making a bad decision.

Harris, a junior at UIC, is quoted in the story as saying the high cost of birth control "steered" her away from it.

"I don't blame them [UIC], but I might not be in the situation I am in now," she told the reporter.

The situation Harris is referring to is a situation that will last at least 18 years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars before the situation gets a job and starts taking full responsibility for the decisions he or she makes.
Since the only time I read the Sun-Times is online, I couldn't give you an honest reaction to this. I didn't get to see this photograph.

Where's Mitchell going with this though...
The premise of Monday's story is that "pregnancies could rise" because the cost of some forms of birth control have more than doubled on college campuses. Instead of cutting corners elsewhere, senior Omotayo Asunmo said she stopped using the pill regularly.

Northeastern Illinois University no longer provides contraceptives such as Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo and the NuvaRing or patch and now will only provide generic birth control pills for $12 a month. At UIC, the cost of the NuvaRing went from $15 to $35, generic pills went from $7 to $25 and Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo went from $7 to $40. Contraceptives that once were dispensed free at the University of Illinois now cost $22 ($5 for generic pills).

Even more alarming is Harris' candid admission that, despite being able to get free condoms, she would only use them "once in a while," and that sex "just happened."

Her attitude is a stark reminder that young people do not have a sense of their own mortality.

According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African Americans are disproportionately affected by HIV infection and account for 55 percent of all HIV infections reported among people ages 13-24. And according to information from 33 states with long-term name-based HIV reporting, males made up 62 percent of the 17,824 people 13-24 years of age who were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Thirty-eight percent were females.

Those numbers should make black women on college campuses stockpile condoms, let alone use them.

Health officials like the one cited in the contraceptive story are also part of the problem.

Dr. Nandini Khatkhate, UIC medical director at Family Medicine Center, is quoted as fearing that condoms may not be as effective as birth control when it's not "planned sex."

"Something like a condom may not be used," Khatkhate said.

What's this doctor talking about? Drunken binges? Sexual assaults? Her assessment may be realistic, but how about changing the reality?
I know what this could be about. Making responsible choices, something that some people seem unable to do. I understand that things happen but there are things one can do to plan for contingencies when possible. Especially if we're not talking about sexual assaults.

Mitchell closes with this...
...Because there's a point in every woman's life when she looks back and sighs. If she only knew then what she knows now, her life would have turned out entirely different. We then try to pass on hard-learned lessons to our daughters and granddaughters. So I'm not trying to embarrass Harris, I'm reminding her that while it may be an unfair expectation, she represents a lot of black women when she speaks out in the media.

The consequence of irresponsible sexual behavior today is a lifetime sentence. And, as in the past, a baby changes a young woman's life forever.

College students are not immature teenagers. They certainly shouldn't want to be portrayed in media as being victims of pharmaceutical companies and government regulations. These young women should be protecting themselves against HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancies because they know better.
In some respects I can say that I have a rather harsh idea for those young women in college or high school who find themselves as teenage mothers. Mitchell is right however these young women or in some instances young men should do a better job of protecting themselves.

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