College health care centers across the country have doctors or nurse practitioners on staff that can prescribe and distribute birth control pills to students, but one university is making headlines for allowing students to buy Plan B in a vending machine.
Plan B, emergency contraception also known as the morning after pill, may prevent pregnancy if taken soon after unprotected sex. Plan B contraceptives have been politically controversial as protesters have compared the drug to abortion, but in 2009 the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that 17-year-olds could purchase morning after pills without a doctor’s prescription or a parent’s consent.
Shippensburg University, a member of the Penn State system located in Shippensburg, PA, is not the first college or university to make Plan B available to its students, yet it is caught in recent media frenzy.
Peter Gigliotti, a Shippensburg University spokesperson, told the Los Angeles Times, “This is nothing new. I have no idea why it’s getting the reaction it’s getting now.” The vending machine, which dispenses the pills for $25 alongside other health-related products such as condoms and pregnancy tests, is located in the school’s health clinic and has been in existence for roughly two years. According to Gigliotti, the clinic’s vending machine was installed after a student government survey showed 85% of Shippensburg students were in favor.
The Times reports that the college students in need of emergency birth control and wishing to buy plan B in the vending machines must enter a private room at the school’s clinic, meaning that the general public is not given access to it, and all Shippensburg students are 17 or older—in accordance with the FDA rules.
A statement issued by Shippensburg University insists that reproductive services are a personal decision and is the university is not encouraging students to become sexually active.
How do students feel about the birth control vending machines? Although some who were not aware of its existence until recently may object, others are happy with the school’s decision. “I think it’s great that the school is giving us this option," Shippensburg junior Chelsea Wehking expressed, according to Fox News. “I’ve heard some kids say they’d be too embarrassed." [to purchase Plan B elsewhere.]
Fox reports that the FDA is contacting officials to investigate the matter, most likely due to recent political activity related to birth control—the Obama administration recently ruled that Plan B must be sold behind pharmacy counters rather than on drugstore shelves next to condoms and other sexual health items.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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