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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 23. September 17, 1968

The Pill

The Pill

Sir—One aspect of illegitimacy that has not been fully discussed on either the national or university level, is the availability of oral contraceptives to the unmarried woman. I understand the present position with the university doctors is that officially they will not dispense prescriptions, but unofficially they do. It would seem therefore that they set themselves up as official judges—at least concerning the female student?as to who is and who is not entitled to this free medical service (for which we all indirectly pay).

I was personally refused orals by student doctors at both Canterbun and Wellington at the time when I asked lor them. I was living some hundreds of miles away from my home town, had infrequent access to my own doctor and was not involved in what I would consider a promiscuous sex life. I am Interested therefore in what sort of arbitrary criteria the university doctors use, and whether lying to accentuate or minimise one's position is really required. The present high cost of orals ?due chiefly, I understand, to the dispensing cost? makes it absurd for any student to have to attend an outside doctor when the university provides a Health Service.

Dr Carol Shand in a recent Point of View programme stated that there are a number of doctors throughout New Zealand who will dispense prescriptions to unmarried women, Other commentators agree.

Most girls are hesitant to go to their family doctor if they believe he or tneir parents would have an unsympathetic attitude. It takes a great deal of courage for most young girls to visit a doctor and ask tor orals, Far more so if the believes that her request may be denied or that she will be subjected to a moral lecture when the alternative is abstinence (unlikely) or reliance on the male for contraception. The present illegitimacy rate may well be an indication of how well this latter method has paid off.

Apart from the mere prescription there are often accompanying physical and psychological problems for a woman. Is the same doctor Who refused to give a prescription for orals prepared to treat a female student for these needs? Alternatively there is the doctor— and even a Catholic doctor realises the harm it will do to his practice if he refuses to grant prescriptions—who will willingly torn out oral prescriptions on his prepared notepad—collect his $1.50? but because the girl is unmarried, and perhaps because the requests are so many, is unable to give sufficient attention to the sexual problems of an unmarried woman. Marriage is generally considered to be the panacea for these problems.

There is no reason why an unmarried woman should feel guilty about asking for orals from a doctor, yet as long as doctors continue to take a hypocritical attitude toward the problem. I Fail to see how. more unmarried women can be expected to ask For help.

Yours faithfully,

Jan Walker.

[Dr I. C. Fleming replies— "The statement that the present position with the University Doctors' is that 'official!) they will not dispense prescriptions, but unofficially they do' is a misunderstanding and is not correct. What is primarily expected of doctors in the Health Service by the University, by individual students, and the student bodv, is that the highest possible standard clinical and professional be offered to patients. This is the 'position' and this applies to each and every consultation, whatever the reason for the consultation.

"A further statement in this letter implies that our opinion may possibly bo that there is 'promiscuous sex-life among students, This is not our opinion. On the contrary, students generally show a sense of responsibility which far exceeds that shown by man) young persons outside the University community.

"The concern expressed in this letter about the high rate of illegitimacy and unwanted pregnancies in New Zealand is one which is shared by most doctors, and in particular by those who work among young people.

"At the student Health Service we offer students advice about any health problem this includes contraceptive advice if a request is made. It is generally accepted that if we are to encourage a responsible attitude towards illegitimacy and unwanted pregnancies, then such advice should not be withheld. Nevertheless, any advice should remain a purely personal and private matter between doctor and patient. It is only within this setting that an adequate and worthwhile contribution can be made."—cd.]