The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Staying protected: Student organizers offer free off-campus contraceptive delivery program

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Blue Demons, who are bound by DePaul’s policy on the distribution of birth control, have a harder time accessing condoms than most college students. 

Access to birth control is limited on school grounds, but Planned Parenthood Generation Action (PPGA), a group of student organizers for reproductive rights, has stepped in to fill the gap with a free off-campus contraceptive delivery program which started this fall.

Supplied with materials from organizations like Planned Parenthood and Advocates for Youth, PPGA, a group that has operated at DePaul since 2022, offers condoms, emergency contraceptives, pregnancy tests and latex-free dental dams.

 Students interested in utilizing the service can fill out an online form with their name, how they would like to be contacted, what materials they are looking for and a location for delivery, according to Maya Roman, treasurer of PPGA.

Roman emphasized that the delivery process is discrete, saying all materials are placed into an opaque bag.

 “It’s a very, very private thing, and we really prioritize making sure that people don’t feel uncomfortable, and making sure that they’re safe, too,” Roman said, adding that PPGA recognizes not all students live in a home where birth control is accepted as an appropriate resource.

 Personal information like your name and requested materials remain confidential, too, according to Roman.

In adherence with DePaul’s policy, Roman said PPGA “always (specifies), even on the form, that we cannot meet on DePaul grounds.” 

She named Chipotle, Starbucks, the Fullerton train stop and personal residences among the locations PPGA members have met requestees for distribution.

Nitaawe Banks, a sophomore at DePaul and one of the committee members responsible for delivering supplies, said they have traveled up to 40 minutes by train to meet with a requestee.

 “Some people, the moment I get the order info and start communicating with them, they’re like, today’s my last day to avoid pregnancy. … That’s so scary,” Banks said. “It does kind of break my heart that they feel like they don’t have any other options or resources.”

 As a Catholic institution, DePaul’s policy on birth control is closely aligned with that of the archdiocese, meaning contraceptives are out of the question when it comes to resources the university provides students.

 “We can’t hand out condoms, emergency contraceptives, any kind of barrier method or hormonal method. Pretty much any kind of birth control is prohibited,” Roman said.

 DePaul’s restriction on the “Public Distribution of Inappropriate Health and Medical Devices/Supplies,” was first mandated in 2005.

 The policy changed in 2015 to allow for educational programs that teach about “health related lifestyle issues and choices” so long as they include Catholic teachings, according to the policy. 

 Sexual education materials were also prohibited prior to this reform, Roman said. 

Other Catholic universities, including Loyola University Chicago and Notre Dame have similar restrictions. 

Student organizers at DePaul who advocate for reproductive justice have long been pushing back against the policy.

 In 2015, DePaul Feminist Front petitioned students in hopes of lifting the restriction, but the initiative fell short, with organizers receiving 1,339 of the 1,500 signatures needed to bring the issue to the Student Government Association (SGA).

PPGA has revitalized the campaign, publishing its own petition Nov. 3, 2023.

 “In a post-Roe world, what must be done is supporting access to contraceptives and sexual healthcare and engaging in comprehensive and inclusive sexual education,” the petition reads. “Banning the distribution of contraceptives strongly goes against that mission.”

 The petition currently has 747 signatures.

 Recognizing that overturning the policy would likely take time, Roman said PPGA started brainstorming ways they could help students access birth control in the meantime.

 “Around the Lincoln Park campus, even the Loop campus, it is very difficult to get your hands on contraceptives,” Roman said, pointing out that things like condoms are expensive. 

  “It’s much better that people are informed and prepared for (sex) than have to use emergency contraceptives or have to go to abortion or just have unplanned pregnancy in general.”

Banks, the committee member who helps distribute supplies, attended a community college that distributed free contraceptives before transferring to DePaul and now finds it frustrating that the university does not offer the same service.

“I don’t know why they would offer STD testing but not give the preventative measures to (avoid) STDs.”

— Jack Stringer, a DePaul junior.

 Jack Stringer, a junior at DePaul, feels similarly.

 “I don’t know why they would offer STD testing but not give the preventative measures to (avoid) STDs,” he said.

 DePaul’s Office of Health Promotion and Wellness (HPW) offers STD and HIV testing every quarter.

 In a statement to The DePaulia, the university’s Office of the Secretary, which is in charge of making sure the college meets its legal requirements for reporting and record keeping, said DePaul does “encourage sexual health as an aspect of one’s holistic well-being and framed in healthy relationships.”

 HPW hosts several events on sexual health and healthy relationships throughout the school year and offers professional training, personal appointments and “resource linkage to community partners,” according to the statement.

 “Healthy relationship building, consent, sexual violence prevention, and healthy sexual choices are at the forefront of many of the services we provide,” HPW director Tyler Wurst said in a statement to The Depaulia, adding that HPW believes “when students are educated about sex, they will make the best choices for themselves.”

 Adhering to DePaul’s policy, Wurst said HPW events on the topic of sexual health include Catholic teachings, meaning they “uphold inherent dignity of all people, Vincentian personalism, care for our most vulnerable students, social justice, diversity, equity, inclusion, community and public service.”

 PPGA also hosts events that cover topics on sexual health.

 “You’ve probably seen the flyers around campus, very crazy sexual education topics,” Roman said in reference to PPGA’s “Pillow Talk” series, which aims to support healthy conversations around sexual education.

 “They can seem threatening, but the whole point of them is to create that comprehensive sexual education on topics that have taboo surrounding them,” Roman said.

 Education, she said, is a driving component in PPGA’s mission and the free contraceptive program. 

 “There are so many students who didn’t even know this ban existed. They still don’t know this ban exists,” Roman said. “That’s our biggest hurdle (in) making sure that there’s education and awareness on this ban.”

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