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A DeMinted Attack on College Women

Anti-contraception Senator Jim DeMint moved this week to increase birth control prices as much as 900% for college women, forcing them to "splurge" if they want to use protection.
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Anti-contraception Senator Jim DeMint insisted this week that birth control prices be 900% higher for college women than they were previously. You'd think the Senator, who professes to be against abortion, would want to make contraception as accessible as possible for women in college since they're the demographic with the highest rate of unintended pregnancy and the highest rate of abortion. College women typically don't have much income and are also disproportionately likely to be uninsured; it's not the pool of people you want to force to "splurge" if they want to use protection. "We do know that high fees act as a barrier to obtaining care. That is classically understood in campus health services," explained Claudia Covello, director at the University of California-Berkeley's health center, to Time magazine.

The DeMint move is just the latest, and we're talking by minutes, in a month of repeated attacks against access to contraception. Obama wants common ground, but the current Republican cabal wants to stomp its feet on the fringe. So routine now are the attacks on contraception that the anti-contraception crew will use any excuse, like the aunt who dolls up the house for every minor holiday. The anti-contraception team dresses up their attacks on birth control in whatever polemic is being celebrated that day even if, like that "Kiss Me I'm Irish" shirt worn by your aunt's chihuahua, the claim is not true at all.

When Prevention First legislation was introduced in the Senate it consisted of proposals that would improve access to contraception. And yet it was referred to by contraception opponents as an "abortion bailout." When the stimulus package included a simple budget-neutral provision to streamline state billing procedures for contraceptive services, the Family Research Council called it a "political payoff". Now, DeMint through an amendment hopes to remove the Affordable Birth Control Act, which requires no expenditure but simply reinstates college health centers and other safety net clinics back into the discounted drug pricing program. The polemic decoration DeMint uses is that lowering the cost of birth control for college age women is an "earmark" for Planned Parenthood.

The problem with birth control prices on college started where all modern problems begin, with the Bush administration. In 2005, Bush used the Federal Deficit Reduction Act to exclude college health centers and some safety net health clinics, including about a quarter of Planned Parenthoods, from discounted drug programs. And wouldn't you know it, the most common drug each of these health centers provide is contraceptives. When birth control prices starting soaring after the change, in some instances going from $5 to $50 for a month's supply, anti-contraception operatives played dumb. The Bush team claimed they did not intend for the law to remove college health centers and private birth control clinics from the list of those eligible for discount drug pricing.

Over that last few years when simple solutions were offered to remedy this "unintentional" act, like asking HHS to work out a simple correction and introducing legislation to reinstate the health centers into the discount drug program, it was more than a little suspicious that those pleading innocence were unwilling to back a remedy. In fact, the amount of effort the anti-contraception team has put into protecting this "unintentional" scale back in contraceptive access is telling. It appears some mistakes are really worth fighting for. In the most recent attempt to stop the "unintentional" act from being corrected, DeMint is now claiming that by reestablishing the prices discount for birth control these health centers will keep the cost-savings for themselves and charge women the same inflated prices. Maybe he is confusing college health centers with our banking system. The health centers are not known for predatory business practices. And if profit were a motive for the not-for profit Planned Parenthood someone might want to point out to its financial team that determining the price they charge for birth control based on a woman's ability to pay, as the organization does, is not the fastest route to the top of the capitalist pyramid.

The appropriations bill is being voted on today. Call your Senators today and tell them to vote against DeMint's Amendment 649

For breaking news on threats to birth control access and information visit