Recent media reports have inaccurately characterized Oberlin’s plans pertaining to reproductive healthcare and gender affirming care for our students. I wish to be clear. Oberlin is committed to the health and total well-being of all of our students. This commitment requires that we provide a high level of care across a wide scope of services, including reproductive healthcare and gender affirming care.
That is why we were intentional earlier this year in selecting Harness Health Partners (HHP), a division of Bon Secours Mercy Health, as the provider who would staff and operate Student Health Services. Harness Health was a strong partner throughout the pandemic, when they were invaluable in our COVID testing protocols. Bon Secours, a Catholic health system, owns Mercy-Allen Hospital, which has cared for our students for years as the only hospital in the city of Oberlin.
This year, before we committed to expanding our partnership to the operation of our Student Health Services, Oberlin and HHP held a number of conversations about the type of care required to serve our students effectively. These conversations included discussions about gender affirming care and reproductive health as it relates to access to birth control. HHP provided assurances on these issues and both parties worked together to prepare for a new school year.
In recent days, Bon Secours informed Oberlin through media reports and emails that they are no longer comfortable with their prior position with respect to the prescription of contraceptives for the explicit purpose of birth control and the implementation of gender affirming care. While we were disappointed by this change so close to the start of the semester, we quickly moved to ensure the needs of our students would be met without interruption. Our solution was to turn to another partner with whom we have had an established working relationship.
Last year, Family Planning Services of Lorain County (FPSLC) supplemented Student Health Services and conducted Sexually Transmitted Infection testing clinics on campus. This year, (FPSLC) will provide reproductive healthcare services on campus, including offering contraception, STI testing and treatment, PrEP and PEP for HIV prevention, as well as Pap exams. FPSLC will offer gender affirming care and dispense reproductive health contraceptives and medication such as Plan B on campus. Currently, they will operate out of the Student Health Center three days a week; on the days they are off-campus, Oberlin will provide transportation to FPSLC, which also is considering offering telemedicine visits for students.
Oberlin already hosts three vending machines that dispense condoms. We are exploring the possibility of placing vending machines on campus that would dispense Plan B and other contraceptives.
As I have said in my various public statements on this issue, equitable access to reproductive health is a personal value that is critically important to me. I also believe this to be an institutional value as well. So I want to assure our students and parents, faculty, staff, and alumni that we will have a layered approach to student care that will include the full range of reproductive healthcare services that our students deserve.
Carmen Twillie Ambar