In response to a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court last week in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case, which overturned nearly 50 years of jurisprudence in support of abortion rights, Dartmouth issued a statement Friday reaffirming the institution’s unwavering commitment to “reproductive health, autonomy and prosperity for every member of our community. ”
This week, Dartmouth News spoke with Health Service Director Mark Reid to learn how students currently have access to reproductive and sexual health services on and off campus and how Dobbs’ decision could affect those services.
After Dobbs’ decision was announced, the Dartmouth College Health Service issued a statement saying: “We are committed to the sexual and reproductive health of our students. Can you talk about the decision to publish this statement? What concerns do you hear from students and the community?
Although there was little preview that this Supreme Court decision would happen, it was still a shock when it actually happened. The students and staff here at the Health Service were concerned about the implications of the decision and wanted to inform our community that we are fully committed to supporting reproductive health opportunities and student choice on campus. I think the main concern of students is that access to services will be limited. What will be the scope of the services offered and will they have freedom of choice for the services they want?
What reproductive health services are currently available through Dick’s House?
We offer a wide variety of reproductive and affirmative sexual health services for students, college students and professional students. These include routine and pelvic examinations, prescription and over-the-counter birth control, and emergency contraception, which is available 24/7 for students at our vending machine. We work hard on the prevention, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and provide education on safe sex. We do HIV testing and treatment. We work hard on HIV prevention, including PrEP prescriptions, which are prophylactic prescriptions, and the management of HIV support tests. We do a lot of Navy and long term placement and removal of Nexplanon. We do pregnancy tests, consult pregnancy options and guide. We offer gender reassignment services, including hormone therapy. We provide assistance to survivors of sexual violence. We provide support and guidance for problems and concerns related to sexual gender identity, intimacy, sexual functioning, sexual trauma.
Does this include abortion services?
We have never had abortions or abortions on site, but we work closely and refer students to a number of local clinics, including Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and Planned Parenthood in White River Junction, Virginia. There are other clinics quite close by car in Vermont as well. For students who are outside the area or in another state, we work with them to understand the options closest to them.
And are these services covered by the student health insurance plan?
Yes. You do not need to be enrolled in the plan to take advantage of all the services offered by the Health Service; you just have to be an active student. All students in Dartmouth must have health insurance and more than half are enrolled in the health plan of the student group in Dartmouth, which covers 80% of the network and 70% of the fees outside the network for reproductive medicine after covering the deduction. (Details are available in pdf.)
What is the philosophy behind providing all these services?
The goal of the Dartmouth Health Service is to provide quality, culturally informed health care to enable students to participate fully in all the academic and extracurricular programs that Dartmouth has to offer. Reproductive and sexual health is an important part of overall health.
Can you give an idea of how often students use sexual and reproductive health services?
We see most Dartmouth students here at the Primary Health Care Service, so there is an opportunity for sexual health discussions with all students, whether they are sexually active or not. So this is the cornerstone of what we do. We take care of the whole person. We want students to be healthy so that they can take advantage of this place. We also want them to learn how to advocate and take care of themselves in the healthcare system.
Will Dartmouth’s ability to provide reproductive care change after Dobbs?
I want to be optimistic. Abortion is currently legal in New Hampshire for up to 24 weeks, although it is not explicitly protected by state law. Can this change? Yes. On the plus side, we are surrounded by states – Vermont, Massachusetts, New York – where abortion rights are protected. But we believe that people’s rights to access reproductive and sexual health must be preserved in New Hampshire and here in Dartmouth, and we will strongly advocate for the continuation of all the services we currently provide.
How can students access services?
To make an appointment at Dick’s House, students can call our meeting office at 603-646-9401. Again, we have emergency contraception available 24/7 at the vending machine in the lobby. We also have after-hours services available 24/7 to answer questions or concerns.