Reproductive Health Services at Oshkosh
Two facilities on campus provided students with information about reproductive health: the Student Health Service Clinic and the University Counseling Center. Dr. Charles Lyons, Director of Student Health Services, educated students about abortion, contraception, and sexually transmitted diseases. He also prescribed birth control pills. Despite Lyons’ leadership, not all staff on campus was prepared to meet the shifting health needs of students. Another clinic doctor, Thomas Cunningham possessed deeply held religious beliefs as well as personal opinions about students’ promiscuity. As evidenced by critical articles in the Advance-Titan (A-T), these beliefs led Cunningham to refer students who desired the Pill to other doctors.
Beyond contraception, in November 1970, the Student Senate and Assembly passed a measure to provide the Oshkosh campus with an abortion referral service. Originally sponsored by the organization, Zero Population Growth (ZPG), the referral service transitioned from a simple box in Reeve Union into which students dropped their questions, to a telephone service. The organizers published contact information in the classified section of the A-T and worked closely with the University’s counseling center. Counselor Don Merz, who worked on issues relating to pregnancy, handled the majority of the abortion referrals made at the center. This activity of Metz is significant as abortions in Wisconsin were technically illegal until the ruling of Roe v. Wade in 1973, which guaranteed a woman’s right to abortion regardless of state laws.