Letter to the Editors: On Medication Abortion and Healthcare Access

We write to respond to recent commentary published in The Maroon-News regarding medication abortion access on campus. Student Health Services met with student leaders from Planned Parenthood of Colgate in February of this year to start a conversation about medication abortion. The conclusion of that discussion was to keep an open dialogue, bring forth any new information or data, and to consider bringing a provider from Planned Parenthood to campus to discuss medication abortion and related considerations of this care.

Unfortunately, there have been no further conversations with Student Health Services surrounding this issue. SHS has not been invited to any further meetings of Planned Parenthood of Colgate, the CU Collective, or any other discussions regarding medication abortions that have occurred on campus.

Student Health Services (SHS) has a long history of providing expansive reproductive health services and provides unbiased pregnancy options counseling and maintains a referral network for abortion services. SHS partners with several specialty medical providers for services that we are unable to offer within our clinic. This referral network includes reproductive-healthcare providers, endocrinologists, and orthopedists within our region. As The Maroon-News commentary noted, SHS does refer students seeking abortion to a provider in the Binghamton area. We also offer referrals to Planned Parenthood in Utica (approximately 30 minutes away) as well as Planned Parenthood in Syracuse (approximately 60 minutes away).

While these distances are a reality of healthcare in rural America, our nearby options are far closer than those afforded to students in many states. Although not by design, accessing healthcare or treatment requires taking time away from one’s other responsibilities and obligations; this is no more true at Colgate than it will be following graduation. Student Health Services’ goal is to make accessing healthcare as easy as possible for every student; however, it will necessarily always require time and effort.

Providing medication abortion services requires providing 24-hour on-call access to specialized and emergency care. Unlike some institutions in larger metropolitan areas, Colgate does not have access to local emergency obstetricians or gynecologists within Hamilton. Medication abortion, a specialized treatment option, exceeds what Student Health Services is able to safely provide. While complications of medication abortion treatment are rare, they can occur and require emergency-level services. Although not required as a private institution, Colgate’s practice of offering referrals to authorized prescribers of medication abortion treatment is in alignment with new legislation governing New York’s public university system.

There are no additional charges for a consultation or treatments at Student Health Services. The only charges passed on to students are the cost for tests or medications provided at the time of the visit because SHS does not bill insurances.

Most importantly, I want every student to know that SHS is here to support you. We are an exceptional healthcare resource for students, and we are fortunate to have many high-quality healthcare providers and partners to help offer a comprehensive lineup of services, even when students’ healthcare needs exceed that of what is locally available within SHS or Community Memorial Hospital.