Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania doesn't have the same old vending machines that most schools do. They don't carry chocolate bars, bags of chips or soda. A vending machine at Shippensburg University has been providing students with the Plan B, morning-after pill, for the past two years. The $25 emergency contraceptive pill isn't the only product that students can buy from these machines. Condoms, decongestants and pregnancy tests can also be found in the vending machine on the Pennsylvania campus.
What is Plan B? The Plan B One-Step website states that their pill is a backup plan that helps prevent pregnancy after birth control failure. Within 72 hours, or 3 days, the Plan B One Step pill will reduce the chance of pregnancy after unprotected sex. While the Plan B emergency contraceptive pill is available without a prescription, legally it must be kept behind the counter.
In order to get the pill over the counter, the consumer must be 17-years old or older. So how is this age limit being enforced with the vending machines? According to the Denver Post, Shippensburg University officials said that access to the vending machine in the student center is restricted. Restricted in this case, means that only students and University employees have access to the machine. A spokesperson for the University also said that according to their records, all current students are 17 or older.
The machine was put in place do to a high response from students. According to the Huffington Post, the student government endorsed the machine a couple years ago after a survey showed that 85 percent of the responders were in favor of the Plan B.
So, why the sudden interest by the FDA in a machine that has been operational for two years? The Huffington Post believes that issues surrounding religious rights and access to birth control have given rise to the FDA's involvement and investigation.
One caveat: It is recommended that before taking Plan B, the consumer speaks with a pharmacist or physician. A pharmacist or physician can go over any questions about the contraceptive, as well as discuss side effects and risks. Students are not doing this when getting the emergency contraceptive from a vending machine.
The Plan B One-Step website stresses that the emergency contraceptive is not an abortion pill, and isn't a substitute for birth control. Taking the pill while pregnant will not terminate an existing pregnancy. The pill is also not intended to protect against HIV or other STD's after unprotected sex.
Currently Shippensburg University seems to be the only school providing Plan B in a vending machine.