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The Dartmouth
May 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Upper Valley organizations provide free Plan B, expose anti-abortion centers

After Roe v. Wade was overturned this summer, abortion rights organizations have coordinated efforts to provide free and accessible emergency contraception to Dartmouth and Upper Valley community members.

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Abortion rights organizations Upper Valley for Abortion Rights and the New Hampshire Reproductive Freedom Fund have worked to distribute free Plan B — an emergency contraceptive pill — and expose anti-abortion pregnancy centers in the Upper Valley since last summer.

According to UV4AR lead coordinator Nancy Welch, community members can access the pill for free at Still North Books & Bar in Hanover, Lalo’s Taqueria in Lebanon or on campus through the climate justice group Sunrise Dartmouth. Plan B is also offered at more than 20 partner locations across the state, NHRFF executive director Josie Pinto, a graduate student at The Dartmouth Institute, added. Welch said that the coalition also hopes to raise awareness about anti-abortion pregnancy centers, such as the Pregnancy Center of the Upper Valley, which has a location in West Lebanon.

“We came together in the wake of Roe [v. Wade] being struck down to first defend abortion access in the Upper Valley, in New Hampshire and in Vermont, but to also try to expand for full reproductive justice,” Welch said. “This is a need not just to defend the rights under Roe, but push for everything that was excluded from that decision.”

Although NHRFF’s primary initiative is funding abortion — providing more than $225,000 in abortion care since 2019, according to its website — Pinto said that they began the Plan B initiative last summer after Roe was overturned by the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Given increasing worries about abortion access in the wake of Dobbs, Pinto added that NHRFF looked for a way to “be more preventative” and “calm people’s own anxiety.” She added that the group reached out to Plan B makers directly, who agreed to provide the contraceptive by donation.

The free Plan B program also helps to address issues of accessibility, according to Grace Hillery ’25, Sunrise’s head coordinator and representative within UV4AR. Although students can access Plan B at vending machines located in Dick’s House, Hillery said the contraceptive is “relatively expensive.” According to Dick’s House pharmacist Carson Wenz, Plan B costs students $26.04 after a 10% student discount when purchased in the College pharmacy. 

Beyond confirming the price of Plan B with the Dick’s House pharmacy, the College Health Service did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.

According to Hillery, Sunrise’s initiative is completely confidential. Only one club member can see when an individual requests Plan B, and that same student distributes the contraceptive anywhere on campus, she added.

“It can be difficult for students to access these basic reproductive resources on campus, and Dartmouth isn’t doing enough to make sure that people have access to those resources,” Hillery said. “We are completely confidential. Anytime anyone needs it, they can just [direct message] us on Instagram. We’ll drop it off at their dorm, we’ll drop it off anywhere they want. No charge, no questions asked.” 

The Still North branch is also confidential, according to Still North owner Allie Levy ’11. Levy said the store places the Plan B on a stand with other pamphlets, brochures and free giveaways, and customers can take it without asking. She said the drug has been “steadily going,” noting that Still North has restocked the supply “four to six” times since their partnership with NHRFF began in September.

“Even just looking back to my time in college, remembering needing to go pick up Plan B or having friends that needed to go pick up Plan B, and even though at that time our rights felt way less endangered — which may not have been true, but it felt that way — there was still the stigma going to pick up Plan B,” Levy said. “Being able to make it readily available and also way more financially accessible to students was something that I was really excited to be able to facilitate.”

Pinto said the free Plan B program can also help survivors of sexual violence, noting that Dartmouth has an “unfortunate problem of sexual assault on campus.”

“I’m really hoping to make sure that survivors in particular are pretty quickly connected to or aware of these resources, because I think the last thing you should have to do when you get assaulted is go buy a $50 Plan B pill at CVS,” she said.

Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault executive Madeline Gochee ’23 called the initiative “an amazing resource” for survivors and friends of survivors, especially after an instance of penetrative rape resulting in an unwanted pregnancy.

“I think that just with the unstable and kind of politicized nature of reproductive rights in this country, it’s even that much more important for survivors to know that they’re supported and have resources for them to deal with the outcome of sexual violence — be that emotional support measures, legal measures and then also health measures, such as free Plan B,” Gochee said.

In addition to providing free Plan B — and accompanying informational zines — NHRFF and UV4AR are working to expose anti-pregnancy abortion centers across the state. According to a zine provided by Pinto, there are only five abortion centers in New Hampshire, compared to 20 anti-abortion centers — non-medical facilities often known as “crisis pregnancy centers” that campaign against abortion.

Welch said the Upper Valley campaign was inspired by the “traumatic experiences” of its members at the Pregnancy Center of the Upper Valley. One individual, she said, contacted the Center to access resources from its “baby boutique.” In turn, Welch said that the center made the pregnant person watch “coercive and deceptive” videos about abortion, sign a statement that she “accepted Jesus Christ as her personal savior” and provide her personal information, such as her driver’s license and social security number.

“[Anti-abortion facilities] masquerade as being medical facilities. They are not licensed medical facilities,” Welch said. “Most of them are evangelical church-run and have lots of propaganda and deception that goes into their messaging. But they’re also not subject to federal [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] healthcare privacy laws. There are no limits on what they can do with the data that they collect from you.”

According to Welch, Dartmouth Health lists the Pregnancy Center of the Upper Valley as a resource on its website, despite the location’s reported misinformation and anti-abortion rhetoric. It also appears in a DHMC resource guide that is still available online. 

“DHMC needs to get that off [the internet],” Welch said. “There are other resources that don’t come with coercive strings attached to them.”

DHMC did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication. 

According to Pinto, the campaign against anti-abortion centers is currently in the “education phase,” including providing a national map of anti-abortion pregnancy centers, a zine with New Hampshire locations and information on how to identify these centers. Pinto added that she eventually hopes to launch a targeted ad campaign, but the organization has limited capacity — especially as it works with UV4AR and Sunrise to be involved in the legislative session combatting policies that would restrict abortion access.

Hillery said that Sunrise is also hosting educational events about anti-abortion centers — “hopefully within the next couple of weeks” — and initiatives to distribute educational information about Plan C — abortion pills — on campus. She added that the coalition is working to target anti-abortion centers by passing a municipal ordinance which would require them to “acknowledge the fact that [they don’t] provide abortions” and “are not medical facilities.”

“We’re working on trying to write this ordinance with Upper Valley for Abortion Rights and getting that passed potentially through the Lebanon City Council,” Hillery said.

While Hillery said she is “hopeful” the ordinance will pass — noting a history of success among similar ordinances — she said New Hampshire “isn’t the most liberal, or isn’t really the most pro-reproductive healthcare.” She added that she is concerned about upcoming legislation in New Hampshire that could further curtail reproductive rights by outlawing abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

“There’s a bill on the table … that is essentially the fetal heartbeat ban, which would be horrible,” she said.

The Pregnancy Center of the Upper Valley declined to comment.