Contributed by Nicole Diaz, NLIRH Field Intern
Being back in Texas after two years in college on the East Coast has been a shock to my system. The schools here teach abstinence only, and discussion of making birth control accessible in high schools is just beginning to be thought of as “OKAY.” This is quite a different social environment that predominantly involves a “don’t ask don’t tell” type of policy even at the university level. I was quite surprised when I walked into the local University health center and was met with judgmental eyes and a sudden hush from waiting room patients when I asked if I could purchase birth control. The head nurse promptly led me to a backroom and explained that first I would need a series of lab work done, then I could come back in a week after I’ve had “some time to think it over.” This would not have happened at the mostly all women’s college I attend in Northampton because sex is not something we label as “shameful” at Smith College. For this university located right on the Texas-Mexico border with most of the population being a mix of students from both sides I would have hoped that this situation would not have happened. Several of my friends from Mexico have said that because of the fear that nurses might notify their parents they find ways to getting birth control from other sources. This is problematic in an area with no public transportation and a Planned Parenthood about 10 miles away from the university – a long walk or bike ride – making access an economical and physical barrier for students living on-campus without a car or means to one. It is unacceptable to have university nurses who act in this unprofessional manner and I felt downright insulted. What a step back from encouraging a woman to engage in safe intimate practices.
For more information about the birth control climate in this area, check out this article about local attitudes toward birth control in high schools.