The first time I went to Planned Parenthood, I had just turned 16. My parents had just found out that I had started having sex, and since they figured that there wasn’t much they could do about my sex life (besides put me on house arrest), off I went. Ouch. What can I say? I needed to get on the pill. Two and a half years later, I am still on the pill, and about 85 percent of the birth control dispensers I have used have been from Planned Parenthood. And if I could take a wild guess, most of you have had some type of encounter with either Planned Parenthood or some other similar clinic to obtain birth control. And why not? They hook you up with all the things you need to have safe sex! Free condoms, free birth control pills, free day-after pills, the works. Here in the States, we take our sex ed and access to contraceptives for granted, but around the world, it’s quite a different story. Let me present you with some brief information. Let’s go by the numbers. Hang in there with me, and don’t let your eyes glaze over.

Can we see a pattern here? I think I can. And the thing is, even though us students feel so safe and removed from these problems, we’re not. Every time you have unprotected genital, anal or oral sex, you put yourself at risk of having your pee burn like fire the next morning, weird painful rashes downstairs, herpes on your face and even worse: For the ladies, the fear that a couple weeks down the line, that little pregnancy stick will read positive. Another baby brought into this world, and just like magic, you have become yet another statistic. Just another number that adds to this mounting population crisis that our world now faces.

It’s simple. This global pandemic is being exacerbated by the rapid population growth, so getting the United States in the mix with international funding for family planning is paramount. Unfortunately, under the Bush administration, a U.S. policy known as the Global Gag Rule prohibits funding to any organizations that have abortion-related services — regardless of whether those services are funded using entirely separate, non-U.S. government money. On top of that, in the fiscal year 2008 budget, the president asked for a 25 percent decrease in bilateral family planning programs. Come on, we’re already ranked last among donor nations in overseas development assistance, need we sink any lower?

In light of this crummy situation, there are two things you can do: 1) Do wear a condom. Freaky STIs aside, having a kid right now is not part of the five-year plan (or six, or seven-year plan…) for any student, so don’t sabotage your own success with irresponsible choices. By all means, howl at the moon and get your groove on, but just carry that one-dollar insurance with you. And 2) this November, go vote. We need a presidential candidate who is going to make this issue a priority, and who’s not going to be miserly with dishin’ out the cash necessary to make a significant impact on this problem.