Tuesday, February 7, 2012

University Offers Emergency Contraception Through Vending Machine

According to the Associated Press, students at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania can now purchase Plan B (a form of emergency contraception) for $25 through a on-campus vending machine. The vending machine at the university's Etter Health Center dispenses condoms, pregnancy tests, Plan B, and other medication.

According to ABC News, Vice President for Student Affairs Roger Serr said that the vending machine was installed upon the request of the student association, and after a survey found that 85% of students questioned were in favor of it. Also, according statement from Mr. Serr, the vending machine is located in a private room of the campus health center, accessible only to students. Students must check in with identification at a check-in desk before they can access the machine.

Plan B is a form of emergency contraception meant to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. Emergency contraceptive pills prevent pregnancy by delaying ovulation and inhibiting fertilization, according to the Princeton University's Emergency Contraception Website. Contrary to myth, emergency contraception does not induce abortion of an existing pregnancy and is not the same as the abortion pill. As reproductive rights activists and sexual assault advocates have noted, emergency contraception is an option for rape victims and is offered as part of sexual assault forensic exams.

As Republic of Gilead has observed before, several voices from the Religious Right have looked askance at emergency contraception (see here, here, and here). Not surprisingly, several right-wing voices disapproved of Shippensburg University's new service.

- In a February 7th blog post, Students for Life claimed that Shippensburg University is "offering curbside abortions" by offering this service. Demonizing Plan B as a "lethal drug" and an "abortion pill," the author expressed dismay that emergency contraception was being sold through a vending machine without a doctor's exam. (See studentsforlife[dot]org/2012/02/07/shippensburg-university-press-a1-for-a-coke-a2-for-an-abortion/)
"Shippensburg University’s decision to sell Plan B – an emergency contraception that results in the murder of pre-born children and can be dangerous to women – in a vending machine on campus is reflective of how dangerous the disease of abortion has become.  This is a dire reflection of how quickly the pro-life movement must take action to change the hearts and minds of college students before the abortion industry and their allies in  liberal academia are able to indoctrinate them with the abortion industry’s propaganda."
- In a recent Washington Update, Family Research Council called the service "a shocking way to normalize a drug like Plan B" and repeated the claim that Plan B allegedly causes early abortions. (See www[dot]frc[dot]org/washingtonupdate/churches-walk-a-fined-line)

- Anti-abortion groups Bound 4 Life is unhappy with the new service. In a February 6th post at the Bound 4 Life Moral Outcry blog, Susan Michelle claims that Plan B is considered by "many" to be an "early abortion pill." Michelle also complains that local minors could have access to Plan B. (See bound4life[dot]com/blog/2012/02/06/campus-vending-machine-sales-of-plan-b-raise-a-bigger-question-of-underage-access)
"If anyone can come into a lobby and use a vending machine, rather than go through a pharmacist, what’s to prevent local kids from coming in town? ... What about local meets of high school and junior high athletes or academic competitions? Most colleges host outside visitors ... It’s really pretty easy to get anywhere on a college campus if you know how to blend in.  And now this public university has managed to give any local visitor who wants it access to a very controversial pill than even a pro-abortion admiration decided wasn’t safe to allow to just anyone."
As mentioned above, a statement from Shippensburg University Vice President for Student Affairs Roger Serr indicated that students would have to check-in and present identification at the health center in order to access the vending machine. Plan B would not be available to "any local visitor."

To my disappointment, right-wing voices are not only promoting tired myths about emergency contraception and abortion, but ignoring the benefits of this service. Students will now have easier access to a medication that can prevent unwanted pregnancy, which is a positive development. Despite Religious Right suspicion of emergency contraception, progress marches on.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Slate: University Selling "Morning-After" Pill From Vending Machine

Jezebel: University Scandalizes Everyone With Whorish Plan B Vending Machine


  1. It's telling how the anti-contraception voices spread myths, lies, and fear rather than simply acknowledge how Plan B actually works. What they're really afraid of is the prospect of women having sex "without consequences."

  2. I notice these rightwingers can't have a reasonable debate. They have to employ over-the-top rhetoric in order to make their points. And they wonder why they don't get wide respect.

  3. This is certainly a positive development. Though I am a bit concerned that requiring check ins to use the machine might lower the willingness of some to use it.

    But I can certainly see the reasoning behind it. Both from a political standpoint of trying to assuage dissenting voices, add privacy of use (can you imagine trying to use such a machine with protestors standing around bullying?) or to prevent vandalism by right wing bigots.

    I wish the situation would allow for such things to be out in the open without fear of reprisal, but sadly that is not the case. That being considered, I believe the university thought this through quite well.

  4. Cognitive Dissenter -- You hit it on the nose. I do think much of the fury is because EC gives women more reproductive autonomy.

    Doug -- Too true. It's all so hyperbolic.

    Cyc -- I think the school did too. These measures will prevent protests and vandalization, as you said.

  5. Such a great idea - they should be everywhere!

  6. Mórrígan -- That's a good idea!

  7. I agree, good idea. Disturbing that so many disagree.

  8. Donna -- It's sad to see Religious Right voices opposed to something that could do a lot of good.

  9. These vending machines will allow women to easily exercise their autonomy. That's simply wrong! Women who've had sex without protection (or who may have had a failure of their protection) should be forced to endure multiple layers of badgering and humiliation from moralizing busybodies.

  10. Buffy -- Not to mention assault victims! The dissenters need to join the 21st century.


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