Student Life

From 1968-2022: Accessing birth control as a student

For many McGill students, university is a time of exploration. And yet, many students struggle to find adequate resources to help them navigate their sexual lives. Unfortunately, barriers to accessing comprehensive resources is nothing new. Since the 1960s, McGill students have been actively working to fill the gaps, creating sexual health resources for their peers. 

It all began in 1968 when McGill’s Student Council passed a motion to form a Birth Control Committee in order to address the lack of sexual health resources available to the McGill community. From this committee, Donna Cherniak and Allan Feingold created the Birth Control Handbook—a comprehensive guide to sexual health, contraception, and anatomy for university students. Its first edition began circulating in 1968, prior to the Omnibus Bill of 1969 which legalized birth control and decriminalized abortion across Canada. Cherniak and Feingold laid the groundwork for activists who came after, with substantial change eventually taking hold not only at McGill, but at countless universities across North America.  

The 1968 birth control handbook and its three subsequent editions were integral to keeping students safe. However, over 50 years later, adequate sexual health and contraception resources is still lacking. To honour the incredible work of Cherniak and Feingold, the Tribune has compiled some sexual health resources students can use in 2022.

  1. The Wellness Hub

For those looking to get started with contraception or even renew a pre-existing birth control prescription, the Wellness Hub can help. The hub is home to a variety of resources, offering wellness programming to all students and consultations with nurses or doctors and referrals to off-campus specialists. However, appointments fill up quickly, so we recommend calling at 8:30 a.m. on Mondays to snag a spot. 

Services: Consultations for STD and cervical cancer screening, IUD and Nexplanon insertion and removal, as well as access to sexologists—mental health professionals who offer sexual health support in a safe and judgement-free space. The hub’s sexologists can offer support for concerns related to coping with an sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnosis and communicating diagnoses with partners, BDSM practices, sex work, pregnancy, contraception, and abortion. 

  1. Dialogue and Maple

Both international and out-of-province students also have access to several online telehealth resources that connect students to appropriate health-care professionals who can offer medical advice from the comfort of students’ own homes. Dialogue is covered by the SSMU Health Plan for in- or out-of-province students, whereas Maple is covered for international students under the International Health Insurance Plan. 

Services: Nurse or doctor consultations for contraception, prescriptions, STD screening, access to sexologists, and referral to in-person resources. 

  1. Head and Hands 

Head and Heads is an organization located in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood that offers physical and mental health resources to youth ages 12-25. Their mission is to provide youth with the resources they need to make informed decisions about their bodies. 

Services: STI testing for young adults aged 12-25, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or insurance status.

  1. Montreal Sexual Assault Centre 

The Montreal Sexual Assault Centre is a safe, judgement-free organization that offers services to survivors of sexual violence. Any survivor over 18 years of age can go to one of their four locations across Montreal, even without an appointment. 

Services: Medical examination, STI testing, forensic samples, medical treatment and follow-up, psychosocial support, and information on police and legal procedures. 

Whether in 1968 or 2022, sexual health is an important part of wellness. If you’re looking for other resources or somewhere to go off-campus, you can visit for more targeted services and locations. 

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