With college students heading to school, I was reminded about a story at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, which is providing their students with the emergency contraceptive, Plan B, via a vending machine. Although at first this seemed like a different idea, the more I researched the more sense it made to me.
Plan B is a single pill that contains a higher dose of a progestin (hormone) than a regular birth control pill. If this hormone pill is taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex it can reduce the chance of an unintended pregnancy by up to 89%.
Plan B is available at pharmacies as well as many college health centers, and does not require a prescription, although the product is behind the counter. It is available to women over the age of 17 who show proof of their age.
The vending machine in question is not sitting in the middle of the student union!! It is also not in a dormitory, or in the gym. It is in the student health center!! The machine is also behind the counter as students must sign in and then be granted access to the treatment area. After going behind the counter a student may purchase Plan B (which costs $25) as well as condoms, pregnancy tests, cold remedies, throat lozenges etc.
This is no different to me than having a student walking across campus to their nearest CVS, or Walgreens to obtain the medication or condoms etc. Plan B is readily accessible if a woman is of age and can get to the pharmacy. The university is providing this service to their students only, all of whom are over the age of 17 and have shown ID and are admitted to the clinic treatment area.
The vending machine was put into place after a student vote that showed that over 85% of students approved of this idea. The students also felt as if this would help students obtain the medication or condoms while maintaining their privacy. The administration is not out on the street or on the main mall of the campus passing out medication.
The fact that college students are having sex is not new. If a vending machine allows a student to buy a condom before having sex bravo! At the same time if the vending machine allows a woman access to Plan B, which is technically OTC (although not out on drugstore aisles), why does it matter whether she walks/drives to the pharmacy or to the health center on her campus? I hope that while purchasing Plan B they maybe she will also buy a condom for future use by her partner as I am equally worried about STD's (not just pregnancy).
I don't think the vending machine is promoting sex, but hopefully providing access and affordability of products that are also available at many other locations. Maybe they can put a brochure about the risk of STD's as well as pregnancy in the same vending slot as the products that are being sold? I would plaster those around the campus as well!
This is a hot topic right now. What are your thoughts?