Amidst the concerns about selling the “morning-after pill”, Plan B, over the counter (including Obama not wanting his daughters to have access to it, there is another controversy brewing. This time, it’s over a Pennsylvania college that is making the emergency contraceptive available in vending machines. It’s a potentially dangerous move with some serious health risks.
Apparently, students at Shippensburg University can get the Plan B One Step emergency contraceptive by sliding $25 into a vending machine alongside condoms, pregnancy tests and decongestants. Yes, it’s good to have this pill available to certain women in crisis, but putting it a vending machine raises questions about how accessible such a contraceptive should be. Taking Plan B within 72 hours of rape, condom failure or simply forgetting regular contraception can cut the chances of pregnancy by up to 89%. Some religious conservatives consider the emergency contraceptive equal to an abortion drug.
Nevertheless, students are overwhelming positive about having this pill so accessible with 85% of them supporting it. But there are also plenty of people who don’t support the idea, even though Federal law now makes the pill available without a prescription to anyone 17 or older.
Alexandra Stern, a professor of the history of medicine at the University of Michigan, questions whether making it so easily available is a good idea:
Perhaps it is personalized medicine taken too far. It’s part of the general trend that drugs are available for consumers without interface with a pharmacist or doctors. This trend has serious pitfalls.
Other experts agree and question whether the vending machine makes it possible for young women to buy the drug without discussing the risk factors with their doctor or other health care professional. There are also concerns that this could deter sexual assault victims from seeking medical attention.
So is there a risk here? Yes. Not only are there potential physical implications and side-effects from taking this drug ranging from nausea to health risks if you are diabetic or already pregnant, but there are also emotional side-effects. If a young woman has been raped, is pregnant or continues to use Plan B as a method of birth control, she would definitely benefit from some counseling. Making something so serious available in a vending machine seems to open up a lot of doors for mental and physical health issues. As with any drug, it’s best if it is dispensed by a health care professional who can explain the risks and how to use it.
Carol Tobias, president of the 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.
Meanwhile, the FDA is investigating the school and the vending machine to see if this is a violation of the law.