A Q&A on Reproductive Health Services at Dartmouth

News subtitle

Health Service Director Mark Reed talks about how students can access needed care.

Contraception in a vending machine
Offerings from the Health Service’s medicine vending machine include emergency contraception. (Photo by Julia Levine ’23)

In response to last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization—which overturned nearly 50 years of jurisprudence supporting abortion rights—Dartmouth on Friday released a statement affirming the institution’s unwavering commitment to “the reproductive health care, autonomy, and well-being for every member of our community.”

This week, Dartmouth News spoke with Health Service Director Mark Reed to learn how students currently access reproductive and sexual health services on campus and beyond, and how the Dobbs decision may affect these services.

After the Dobbs decision was announced, the Dartmouth College Health Service posted a statement that said, “We are committed to the sexual and reproductive health of our students.” Can you talk about the decision to put that statement up? What concerns are you hearing from students and the community?

Even though there was a bit of a preview that this Supreme Court decision was going to happen, it was still a shock when it actually happened. Students and staff here at the Health Service were concerned about the implications of the decision and wanted to let our community know that we are fully committed to supporting the reproductive health care options and choices of students on campus. I think the main concern students have is that access to services will be limited. What will be the range of services available, and will they have freedom of choice for the services that they desire?

What reproductive health services are currently available through Dick’s House?

We offer a large variety of reproductive and affirming sexual health services for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. They include routine checkups and pelvic exams, prescription and nonprescription birth control, and emergency contraception, which is available 24/7 for students in our vending machine. We do a lot of work around sexually transmitted infection prevention, testing, and treatment and provide education around safer sex. We do HIV testing and management. We work a lot with HIV prevention, including PrEP prescriptions, which are prophylactic prescriptions, and testing management of HIV support. We do a lot of IUD and long-term Nexplanon placements and removals. We do pregnancy testing, pregnancy options counseling, and referrals. We provide gender affirming services, including hormone therapy. We provide assistance to survivors of sexual assault. We provide support and referral for issues and concerns related to sexual gender identity, intimacy, sexual functioning, sexual trauma.

Does this include abortion services?

We have never done abortions or pregnancy terminations on site, but we work closely with and refer students to a number of local clinics, including Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and Planned Parenthood in White River Junction, Vt. There are other clinics within fairly close driving distance in Vermont, as well. For students who are out of the area or in another state, we work with them to figure out the options closest to them.

And these services are covered under the student health insurance plan?

Yes. You do not need to be enrolled in the plan to take advantage of all the services offered at the Health Service; you just need to be an active student. All Dartmouth students are required to have health insurance, and more than half are enrolled in the Dartmouth Student Group Health Plan, which covers 80% of in-network and 70% of out-of-network charges for reproductive medicine after the deductible is met. (Details are available in a pdf.)

What’s the philosophy behind providing all of these services?

The purpose of the Dartmouth Health Service is to provide quality, culturally informed health care to allow students to participate fully in all the academic and extracurricular programs that Dartmouth has to offer. Reproductive and sexual health is an important part of general health.

Can you give a sense of how frequently students use sexual and reproductive health services?

We see most Dartmouth students here at the Health Service for their primary care, so there is the possibility of discussions around sexual health with all students, whether they’re sexually active or not. So it is a cornerstone of what we do. We take care of the whole person. We want students to be healthy so they can take advantage of this place. We also want them to learn about how to advocate and care for themselves in the health care system.

Will Dartmouth’s ability to provide reproductive care change in the wake of Dobbs?

I want to be optimistic. Abortion is currently legal in New Hampshire up to 24 weeks, though not expressly protected by state law. Could that change? Yes. On the positive side, we are surrounded by states—Vermont, Massachusetts, New York—where abortion rights are protected. But we believe that people’s rights to access reproductive and sexual health should be maintained in New Hampshire and here at Dartmouth, and we will strongly advocate to continue all of the services that we currently provide.

How can students access services?

To make an appointment at Dick’s House, students can call our appointment office at 603-646-9401. And again, we have emergency contraception available 24/7 in the medicine vending machine in our foyer. We also have after-hour services available 24/7 to answer questions or concerns.

Hannah Silverstein