Nearly 48 percent of community college students have been pregnant or gotten someone pregnant, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
The students with these unplanned pregnancies are 61 percent more likely to drop out of college without a degree. In fact, pregnancies account for one in 10 of female college drop outs every year and seven percent of overall college drop outs, according to Health Teen Network.
The SCV Pregnancy Center estimates that in 2010 there were 410 births by 15 -24 year olds in Santa Clarita Valley and this number is estimated to increase to 533 by 2015. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People 2020 campaign that started in 2010, that is attempting to reduce unplanned pregnancy from 49 percent to 44 percent by 2020.
In the United States 3.2 million pregnancies every year are unplanned so free and affordable birth control methods are available through government-funded programs.
Free forms of birth control are available to community college students at clinics and even on campus at the Student Health and Wellness Center. While barrier methods, such as condoms, are common knowledge, hormone based contraceptives are less so.
The most common form of contraceptive is birth control pills that contain estrogen and progestin hormones and must be taken at the same time everyday. These pills often have about a 9 percent failure rate.
A shot of progestin can be injected into one’s arm or buttocks on a three-month basis and has a lower failure rate of only 6 percent. A patch that will release progestin and estrogen into the blood stream can be placed on the skin once a week for three weeks in order to prevent pregnancy and also has a 9% failure rate.
A contraceptive ring can be worn for three weeks and then replaced that will release the same two hormones and has a 9 percent failure rate.
Possibly the least commonly known form of birth control is an implant that is inserted underneath the skin. This implant will release progestin into the bloodstream everyday for three years and has the lowest failure rate yet of .05 percent.
There is also the possibility of emergency contraceptive when birth control has not been used before sex, also known as Plan B. Plan B’s effectiveness lowers each day after the sexual encounter.
Male condoms are the only form of birth control that protect against sexually transmitted diseases but still have an 18 percent failure rate.
COC’s Health and Wellness Center will provide free to little cost birth control and emergency contraceptive pills depending on eligibility, as well as STD testing and treatment that are all confidential.
Family PACT is a California government funded program that has restricted access for only California residents, income according to family size below 200 percent of federal poverty line, no other health care source and you must have a desire to prevent unplanned pregnancy.
The Health and Wellness Center uses the California Family Planning, Care, and Treatment (PACT) Program through the Samuel Dickson clinic in Canyon Country.
Family Pact is a California government funded program devoted to providing family planning services to those in need. Eligibility for PACT is based on income and is only given to COC students that desire confidentiality.
According to the receptionist in the Health and Wellness who, who preferred to remain unnamed, you have to be a current enrolled student at COC in order to use the services at the Health and Wellness Center.
If eligible for Family PACT the Health and Wellness Center will provide various free forms of birth control, free Plan B, STD testing, pregnancy testing, and UTI and yeast infection medication.
The receptionist also said that if a student is to become pregnant than they are no longer eligible for Family PACT but will be able to discuss options of abortion at other clinics, adoption through an outside agency, or if they choose to have the child they will receive assistance applying for emergency Medi-Cal.
The Health and Wellness Center will never turn someone away, even if they are unable to get Family PACT, they will refer them to someone that can treat them with the lowest possible charges.
When asked about controversy of the state funding free and affordable birth control methods the receptionist said they had never had a complaint or problem. Where problems do arise are with parents discovering that their child had visited the Health and Wellness Center without their consent.
If you are not comfortable being treated on campus there are many free clinics in and around Santa Clarita Valley for a more private medical visit. Planned Parenthood’s closest locations are in Van Nuys, Canoga Park, Burbank and Pasadena.
The Santa Clarita Valley Pregnancy Center is there to assist if you need a pregnancy test or are already pregnant.
The Samuel Dickson Family Health Center in Canyon Country also provides family planning and Family PACT for members of the community and students alike.
For the women that have already experienced, or are thinking about, abortion there is counseling services through Exhale Pro- Voice. Exhale provides after abortion counseling and emotional support online and through their talk line that will allow women to remain anonymous.
Kate Hindman, an Exhale volunteer, first volunteered for Exhale’s Pro-Voice movement after her own abortion. She realized that volunteering helped her heal and realize that it was acceptable to feel differently about her choice every day.
After volunteering as a talk line crisis counselor and traveling with Exhale to share her story she describes Pro- Voice as a “community of people who have had abortions, known someone who had one, and are alias to the cause.”
It is a resource to help connect with the human aspect of abortion in a nonpartisan way without any stigmas. It is a safe community of women their to listen and explain that there is no wrong way to feel.
“I don’t give advice, just listen to what they have to say and give it back logically. The two most common feelings I hear on the talk line are guilt about not feeling bad and confusion about how to feel,” says Hindman.
She says that she preaches self-care, which is pampering yourself and allowing yourself to feel how you’re feeling, so that the girls remember to take some well-deserved time for themselves.