by SHARON CHANG
Students who attend Shippensburg College in Pennsylvania can recieve Plan B One Step, better known as the “morning after” pill, by slipping $25 in vending machines that also carry condoms, decongestants, and pregnancy tests.
Federal Law allowed this pill to be available without a prescription to those who are 17 and older. The school checked their records and found that all current students are that age or older.
The machine has been in place for about two years, but was not widely known until recently. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is contacting state officials and the university to gather facts.
Alexandra Stern, a professor of the history of medicine at the University of Michigan, said she was not questioning a woman’s right to have access to Plan B, but whether making it so open and available is a good idea.
People have been able to insert coins into vending machines to receive aspirin, antacids, or any other common over-the-counter products, but some experts feel that a trend in making drugs such as Plan B, which is kept behind a pharmacy counter, available in college vending machines will encourage students to engage in risky sexual behavior.
“Students at Shippensburg University deserve better than to have their administration represent the potent drug with life-ending potential as no more harmful than any other vending machine item,” says Anna Franzonello.
The idea of putting Plan B One Step into a vending machine first started with a survey by health center services several years ago at Shippensburg. Eighty-five percent of the respondents supported making the pill available, school spokesmen Peter Gigliotti said. The machine is stationed in in the school’s Etter Health Center, which only students and university employees have access to.
“No one can walk in off the street and go into the health center, students must check in at a lobby desk before being allowed in,” says Gigliotti.
Students and university employees at Shippensburg said that they were surprised that a single vending machine at a small school has attracted so much attention. Senior Matthew Kanzler said that a lot of students at the school were not even aware of the machine until recently.
“It’s a way for students to get the help or care they need, students appreciate the on-campus health care because the school, about 130 miles from either Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, is so isolated,” says Kanzler.
Carol Tobias, president of the anti-abortion group National Right to Life, said other services would be more appropriate.
“It would be a much more productive use of funds if universities would partner with local pregnancy resource centers where students can get real help if they need it,” says Tobias.