Taking the morning-after pill in a timely fashion has been one of the biggest hurdles to overcome when it comes to reproductive rights. Emergency contraception (which prevents ovulation so an egg cannot be fertilized, as well as thins the lining of the uterus so a fertilized egg cannot be implanted) is most effective if taken within five days of unprotected sex — but the sooner the better. Even though EC, in theory, became more accessible when the FDA announced it could be sold over-the-counter to women age 17 and up, that did not play out in reality. Women who live in rural areas, as well as women who live anyplace where a pharmacist can cite a so-called conscience clause and tell her “no, not dispensing that!”, still have to do a lot of frantic scrambling at an already stressful time.
But one college in Pennsylvania has a brilliant idea on how to make EC more accessible when it is needed most: Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, put a vending machine filled with Plan B in the health center.
According to Shippensburg’s vice president of student affairs, between 350 and 400 doses were sold each year at the school and the decision to install a vending machine to quicken this service came via the school’s student association. The machine is in a private room in the health center which is only accessible by students, who must first visit a check-in desk. (In other words, someone under age 16 can’t just walk in off the street to access the machine.) Shippensburg students have to pay $25 per dose of Plan B at the vending machine, which is the same price the university pays for it; that cost is actually less than at off-campus student pharmacies.
According to the Associated Press, a vending machine dispensing Plan B might be “unprecedented.” I would be thrilled if more schools follow Shippensburg’s lead — but considering the fear and stigmatization whipped up around the morning after pill (like mischaracterizing it as an “abortive” pill, Mitt Romney), I won’t get my hopes up. Which is a shame, because the one thing both anti-abortion folks and pro-choice folks can all agree on is that we want there to be less abortions via less unwanted pregnancies. Plan B prevents unwanted pregnancies. Why not do everything we can to make it accessible?
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