A photo of a packet of birth control pills circa 1960s.

From the Archives: Contraceptives Not Prescribed

Sunday, April 9, 2017

This week, Synapse proudly resumes the historical column, This Date in UCSF History, where we take a look at the issues making campus news throughout the newspaper’s 60-year existence. We start with a headline from 50 years ago.

For many participating in the nationwide Women’s March last January, the action was a chance to reassert women’s rights to make their own reproductive choices.

This week’s look back into the Synapse archives reminds us that this has been, and continues to be, a long fought battle.

From Synapse - The UCSF student newspaper, Volume II, Number 6, April 6, 1967

Student Health And 'The Pill'

By Dan Miller

The Student Health Service at UC Mcd Center will not prescribe contraceptive pills for purposes of birth control to any student, married or single, according to Dr. John B. Lagen, Director of Student Health.

In a recent interview with the Synapse, Dr. Lagen said that this unwritten policy was arrived at by agreement with the Student Health Directors of the other UC campuses and is the same on each of those campuses.

Asked what happens to girls that request the pill at Student Health, Dr. Lagen said that they are referred to one of a list of local MD's or to Planned Parenthood Association of San Francisco at Presbyterian Hospital, where any woman over 18 can receive birth control information and equipment for less than $15 per year.

Although there is no rigid control over the Student health directors, Dr. Lagen feels no need to change the present policy.

“The purpose of Student Health is to get sick students back into school, and to practice whatever preventive medicine necessary to keep them from missing school because of illness. Giving contraceptives fits into neither of these functions,” he said.

The whole issue of giving the pill to young women is filled with

“so many emotional overtones” that the Student Health Directors have chosen to avoid criticism from parents and citizens by not giving the pill to any student, for birth control purposes.

“The world as a whole is not ready for it,” said Dr. Lagen, “even though this attitude is a hang-over from the Victorian period.”

Medication designed for use as birth control pills is, however, sometimes given at Student Health for other medical purposes, such as irregular menses, pain with menstruation, of acne.

Under these conditions, however, a consultation with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology is first obtained.

It is interesting to note that UC's policy on the pill is subscribed to by only 7% of the nation's 315 campus Student Health Departments, according to a study done by Dr. Ralph M. Butterworth of Washington State University.

This study showed:

• 55% do not prescribe contraceptive pills

• 26% prescribe only to married women students

• 8% prescribe for single women with intent to marry

• 7% prescribe only for medical purposes (UC included)

• 4% prescribe for unmarried women