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Colleges installing vending machines with so-called 'morning after' contraceptive pills


Students, college officials, say it's convenient, eliminates embarrassment

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Some colleges are selling emergency contraceptive products in vending machines to help students avoid feeling anxious or embarrassed about buying the so-called "morning after" pill.

Where is it happening?

Columbia University, Stanford University, Dartmouth College, and a few University of California campuses already have vending machines that dispense Plan B, The Wall Street Journal reported. Barnard College in New York City plans to install one soon.

Plan B is a morning-after pill designed to prevent pregnancy following unprotected sex. The product is typically sold over-the-counter.

Although many colleges offer free or reduced-cost emergency contraception through their student health centers, the centers are often not open "when the pills are most needed, including on weekends," the report stated.

Colleges are selling Plan B in vending machines that resemble the those that dispense candy bars and soft drinks. The machines often include other health products such as condoms or cold medication.

"Although this is medically safe for people to self-administer and no prescription is needed, we would always prefer that students talk with medical or counseling practitioners about preventing unwanted pregnancy," Rose Pascarell, vice president for university life at George Mason University, told the Wall Street Journal.

In October, George Mason University installed a contraceptive vending machine in its student union after students requested it, the report stated. The student council at Miami University is also hoping to get one of the vending machines on its campus.

Barnard offers the morning-after pills free-of-charge for students enrolled in the university's health insurance plan. Plan B is also sold to other students for $15 in the campus health center or for $15 in the machine, Mary Joan Murphy, Barnard's executive director of student health and wellness programs, told the news outlet.

Is it legal everywhere?

Yale's undergraduate student government wanted an emergency contraceptive vending machine, but Connecticut law prevents the school from vending over-the-counter medications.

"This is a big disappointment," Yale College Council president Saloni Rao told the news outlet. Instead, Rao plans to advocate for putting condoms in vending machines.

Advocates say there's a need for the product. A 2018 survey by the American College Health Association estimated that nearly 17 percent of sexually active undergraduates used, or reported that a partner used, emergency contraception within the prior 12 months.

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