When I first read this story, I have to admit, my first reaction was, “That is fabulous!”
Basically, there is a vending machine in the campus health center at Shippenburg University in Pennsylvania, which, among other medications and devices, dispenses Plan B. According to the Associated Press article, only university students and staff can access the machine, and all students attending are age 17 or older and so can legally purchase Plan B without a prescription.
Honestly, my biggest worry — given my experience with other vending machines — is that someone will be dispensed expired emergency contraception, find themselves out $25 (the cost of Plan B from the machine), and have no easy way to remedy this. (I have totally purchased expired condoms from similar machines before. Don’t ask.)
There are apparently folks hand-wringing going, “But should we really make emergency contraception this accessible?”
Um, yes. Yes, we should.
As I am experienced with emergency vending machine purchases of all varieties (condoms, lube, but a veritable avalanche of vending machine pads and tampons), so I am experienced with emergency contraception. I’ve taken it twice during my life: once post-assault, another time post-oops. It’s true: The common side effects of hormonal emergency contraception are not exactly fun — but you know what else is not exactly fun? Being at increased risk for unwanted pregnancy!
Except for folks who are allergic to levonorgestrel (which pharmacists and doctors can’t detect via simple consultation unless the patient already knows), the biggest risk of Plan B (or generic) is that won’t work, and the person will become pregnant. Yes, there are other common side effects (nausea, irregular bleeding, prolonged PMS symptoms), but for most people who choose to take EC, those are worthwhile trade for reducing pregnancy risk.
So Plan B in a vending machine? If it helps provide safe access and reduces pregnancy, then — hell yes.