Opinion Brief

Should Plan B pills be available in vending machines?

The health center at Pennsylvania's Shippenburg University installs a controversial new unit to dispense emergency contraceptives for students

Vending machines already dispense everything from iPods to live crabs. Now, a new dispenser at Shippenburg University's health center in Pennsylvania is selling morning after pills to students for $25 a pop. The private clinic is only accessible to registered Shippenberg students who are required to check-in at a front desk, thus deterring those under the legal age of 16 from using it. The idea is to expedite the process by giving young women already seeking the pill an alternative to going off campus. But are college health officials crossing a line by making the drug so readily available? 

It's a "brilliant" move: The Plan-B pill "is most effective if taken within five days of unprotected sex," says Jessica Wakeman at The Frisky. So — "the sooner the better." A machine not only provides a degree of privacy, but takes away "a lot of frantic scrambling at an already stressful time." All in all, it means fewer unwanted pregnancies and thus fewer abortions — something that "both anti-abortion folks and pro-choice folks can all agree on."
Brilliant Idea: PA College Dispensing Plan B From Vending Machines

But it might not be a good idea: This is part of a trend "with serious pitfalls" in which consumers can buy drugs "without interface with a pharmacist or doctors," Alexandra Stern, a professor of the history of medicine at the University of Michigan tells Bloomberg Businessweek. After all, medical professionals — even those behind a pharmacy counter — are there for a reason, especially when it comes to helping young people choose the right course of action.
"Pa. vending machine dispenses 'morning-after' pill"

Well, it's a start: Are you kidding me? It's not like students will be picking up their contraceptives "where they get their Twix," says Anna North at Jezebel. "Basically, it sounds like the school has found a simple, semi-private" and affordable way for students to get "a very safe medication that can prevent pregnancy." The only other "real solution" would be to just make emergency contraceptives available over the counter for everyone. But "that's not happening anytime soon."
"University Scandalizes Everyone With Whorish Plan B Vending Machine"

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