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Emergency contraception could have a home on every campus in Illinois

Plan B is one of two emergency contraceptives available in the U.S.
Plan B is one of two emergency contraceptives available in the U.S.

Public university students across the state could soon have expanded access to emergency contraception on campus, if a new bill passes through the General Assembly.

State Rep. Barbara Hernandez, D-Aurora, is the chief sponsor of a bill mandating that all Illinois public universities have a vending machine that dispenses emergency contraception on campus, in a place that is accessible after hours and on the weekends. HB4247 aims to ease the stress of students who need emergency contraception when the student health center or pharmacies may not be accessible.

Kelly Cleland, executive director of the American Society for Emergency Contraception, testified in support of the bill before the House Higher Education committee on Wednesday.

Cleland not only spoke in favor of the bill, but attempted to clarify a common misconception that emergency contraception, or EC, works as an abortifacient to end an existing pregnancy.

“Emergency contraception is, as the name says, contraception. It prevents, and does not end, pregnancy. We have years and years of scientific evidence showing that EC does not work if someone's already pregnant, and it doesn't harm an existing pregnancy,” said Cleland.

Despite the evidence Cleland referenced, this misinformation is often believed to be true. It was later repeated during Wednesday’s hearing by a member of Illinois Right to Life, who opposed the bill.

Among the current and recent college students joining Cleland was Rose Brown, a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Brown’s testimony echoed that of the ASEC, who stated that students should be able to focus on their education without worrying about the barriers currently faced to obtaining necessary healthcare.

“Preventing pregnancy is of utmost importance to a majority of college students. HB4247 supports young adults in their reproductive autonomy as well as in their ability to prioritize their education and their futures, by preventing a pregnancy that is potentially unwanted or unintended,” said Brown.

Hernandez also sponsored HB4265, which requires universities to include “non-binary” as an option on forms requiring students to list their gender. Both bills passed 6-4 on partisan leave, meaning Democrats voted for and Republicans against, but roll was not called. Bloomington Republican Rep. Dan Brady was among those voting against the bills.

With both bills out of the Higher Education committee, they will now move back to the House floor for second reading.

Copyright 2022 WCBU. To see more, visit WCBU.

Maggie Strahan