Birth control in a university vending machine? Why not?

$25 a pop for Plan B, the morning after pill, seems a bit steep for the heavily sexually active university student, but if condoms are also offered at least someone could potentially plan ahead.

A university in Pennsylvania hit the news recently because of this topic. They’ve had the machine in place for a couple years but Shippensburg is small and out of mind for most news making. Until now.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is contacting state officials and the university to gather facts, agency spokeswoman Stephanie Yao said Tuesday.

The FDA’s sudden interest took place amid a furor over religious rights and access to birth control. An official resigned from the nation’s largest breast cancer charity Tuesday over Planned Parenthood funding, and Republican presidential candidates attacked the Obama administration for a recent ruling requiring church-affiliated employers to provide birth control.

Consumers have long been able to insert a few coins for the likes of aspirin, ibuprofen, antacids and other common over-the-counter remedies. But some experts see a worrisome trend in making drugs like Plan B, which is kept behind the pharmacy counter, available in a vending machine.

Alexandra Stern, a professor of the history of medicine at the University of Michigan, said she wasn’t questioning a woman’s right to have access to Plan B, but whether making it so easily available is a good idea.

A student is quoted in the article saying she likes the idea because the town is small and students would be embarrassed to go to the local pharmacy to ask for the pill. Having it accessible on campus is a good move in her eyes, and mine as well. The vending machine also stocks condoms so it’s not like somebody couldn’t plan ahead and thus never have to spend $25 after a whoops. But what about a girl who’s been raped? Is she really going to want to go somewhere public? Better a morning after pill acquired privately than having to hunt for an abortion clinic a month or so later. Would a town boasting 6000 permanent residents even have one? The school is out in the mountains, around 130 miles from either Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, according to the article. Hardly ideal for a girl who finds herself in that situation.

Taking Plan B within 72 hours of rape, condom failure or just forgetting regular contraception can cut the chances of pregnancy by up to 89 percent. It works best if taken within 24 hours. Some religious conservatives consider the emergency contraceptive tantamount to an abortion drug.

It shouldn’t matter what they think. They can think the moon is green cheese and being out on a full moon night will make you smell like Limberger but they can’t stop people from going out. They can’t stop people from having unprotected sex. They can’t stop people from taking a pill to avoid an unwanted future. They want to, but they can’t. They really can’t. They need to be reminded of that on a daily basis, apparently. It doesn’t matter what they think. The pill exists and the pill is legal. Long live the pill. It needs to remain a choice for those who think they need it, no matter how much the righteous might disapprove. Fuck the righteous. Take the pill.

Prior to bringing it in, the school’s health center ran a survey and discovered that 85% of students were in favour of the idea. The machine is only accessible to staff and students and, until recently, there were kids on campus who had no idea the thing even existed.

In December, the Obama administration’s top health official overruled her own drug regulators and stopped the Plan B pill from moving onto drugstore shelves next to condoms and other items. It remains available behind pharmacy counters.

Denise Bradley, a spokeswoman for Teva Pharmaceuticals, which makes Plan B, said in a statement that it sells the product only to “licensed pharmacies or other licensed healthcare clinics, which are required to follow federal guidelines for the distribution of pharmaceutical products.”

On whether the machine might violate the law, “I don’t have a definite yes or no,” said Ron Ruman, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees the state pharmacy board. If a person younger than 17 used the machine, it “potentially could be a violation,” he said.

And a check of ages at the school put everyone over 17, so that’s not a problem. There is concern that having the pill handy would mean victims of sexual assault won’t bother getting other help but that sounds like something the health center itself could work on as a project. Remind potential buyers that it’s a physical fix, but not entirely a mental one. If there’s concern that students will take it without knowing about possible side effects or dangers, perhaps the center should have an information night and invite kids in once a semester or something to explain how the pill works and what to think about before going ahead and buying it. Rather than be passive and hope kids will come in to ask questions, they could actively encourage health education and involvement. If they already do some of that, perhaps this will provide them with the incentive to do more.

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One Response to Birth control in a university vending machine? Why not?

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