While it it not possible to purchase Plan B One-Step (the “morning after” pill) from US drugstores, if you’re a student at central Pennsylvania’s Shippensburg University, you can buy it from a vending machine. A survey about health center services revealed that 85 percent of the respondents were in support of making Plan B available. A machine with Plan B (cold lozenges, cough drops, condoms, and pregnancy tests) was installed after the student association requested it, says Dr. Roger Serr, vice president of student affairs at the university. Each dose of Plan B costs $25.
Taking Plan B within 72 hours of having sex can reduce the chance of becoming pregnant by up to 89 percent; the pill is most effective when used within 24 hours. Two other such emergency contraceptives are a generic version similar to Plan B, Next Choice, and a prescription-only pill, ella.
Those 17 and older are currently able to obtain the pill without a prescription. In December, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius blocked an FDA proposal to allow Plan B to be sold over the counter without any age restrictions.
The Washington Post says the making Plan B available in a vending machine appears to be “be rare, if not unprecedented.” Shippensburg University spokesman Paul Gigliotti says that the vending machine is located in “a private room” in the university’s health center, which is only accessible by students.” Gigliotti also says that
“…no one can walk in off the street and go into the health center. Students proceed to a check-in desk located in the lobby and after checking in are granted access to the treatment area.”
The university is neither covering nor subsidizing the medication.
Some religious conservatives have expressed concerns about those under 17 having access to the vending machine. Jessica Sheets Pika, a spokeswoman for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, is quoted in the Washington Post as saying that “if the health center is manned 24/7, that sounds like it’s a sufficient protection.”
The fact that a clear majority of Shippensburg University students expressed their support for making Plan B easily accessible offers further testimony about why the emergency contraceptive should be made available over-the-counter.
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