vending machineWomen's reproductive health has certainly been a hot topic lately, which explains why a small university in Pennsylvania is suddenly making headlines for a "controversial" vending machine that has actually been in place for a couple years now.

The particular vending machine in question dispenses Plan B One Step emergency contraceptive to students who need it for $25. It's the opposite of shocking that some religious conservatives and activists are opposed to the machine simply because they are opposed to the "morning-after" pill in general. But in this case, there's not a lot they can legitimately complain about ...

Like it or not, Plan B out of a vending machine is legal in this instance. By law, the pill is available without a prescription to anyone 17 or older, and Shippensburg University, where the machine is located, has checked records to ensure that all current students are that age or older. Moreover, the vending machine is located inside the student's health center, which is accessible only to students and university employees, who must check in at a lobby desk before being allowed in. In other words, the machine is being accessed only by people who have a legal right to do so.

Not only that but it honestly sounds like the students here need such a machine. In fact, a survey found that 85 percent of supported the machine because it provided a safe reproductive health care service that isn't easily accessible to them. (The town where the university is located is tiny, and it's about 130 miles from either Philadelphia or Pittsburgh.)

So, it's legal and there's a need for it. Then what's the issue here?

It boils down to this: It's weird to see the morning-after pill (along with condoms and pregnancy tests) in a space where we're more used to seeing chips and candy bars. But that just goes to show how unaccustomed -- and uncomfortable? -- we are to the idea of contraception and other reproductive health products being so conspicuous and accessible to women. And being uncomfortable is absolutely no reason to deny people the help and care they need to be healthy.

Hopefully, this vending machine isn't just a step in the right direction, it's a sign of things to come.

Do you think Plan B should be sold in vending machines?

 

Image via jlwelsh/Flickr