Vending machine: Tastykakes, Skittles and the morning after pill?

You’re a college freshman. New roommate. New surroundings. New teachers and friends.You’re a 100 miles from home. Parties. Drugs and alcohol.

Oh yeh, don’t forget the vending machine with the morning after pill. Say what?

According to a story by the Associated Press, students at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania can get the “morning-after” pill by sliding $25 into a vending machine, an idea that has drawn the attention of federal regulators and raised questions about how accessible emergency contraception should be.

The student health center at Shippensburg, a secluded public institution of 8,300 students tucked between mountain ridges in the Cumberland Valley, provides the Plan B One Step emergency contraceptive in the vending machine along with condoms, decongestants and pregnancy tests, says the AP story.

“I think it’s great that the school is giving us this option,” junior Chelsea Wehking said Tuesday. “I’ve heard some kids say they’d be too embarrassed” to go into town — Shippensburg, permanent population about 6,000 — and buy Plan B, says the story.

According to the AP article, federal law makes the pill available without a prescription to anyone 17 or older, and the school checked records and found that all current students are that age or older, a spokesman said. It doesn’t appear that any other vending machine in the U.S. dispenses the contraceptive, which can prevent pregnancy if taken soon after sexual intercourse.

The story says that the machine has been in place for about two years, and its existence wasn’t widely known until recently. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is contacting state officials and the university to gather facts, agency spokeswoman Stephanie Yao said Tuesday.

According to the AP, the FDA’s sudden interest took place amid a furor over religious rights and access to birth control. An official resigned from the nation’s largest breast cancer charity Tuesday over Planned Parenthood funding, and Republican presidential candidates attacked the Obama administration for a recent ruling requiring church-affiliated employers to provide birth control.

Consumers have long been able to insert a few coins for the likes of aspirin, ibuprofen, antacids and other common over-the-counter remedies. But some experts see a worrisome trend in making drugs like Plan B, which is kept behind the pharmacy counter, available in a vending machine, it said.

Alexandra Stern, a professor of the history of medicine at the University of Michigan, said she wasn’t questioning a woman’s right to have access to Plan B, but whether making it so easily available is a good idea.

“Perhaps it is personalized medicine taken too far,” she said. “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.”

I agree. I am all for individual rights, blah, blah, blah. But if it were your daughter, would you have her self-medicate and treat via a vending machine? Or would you prefer that she see her doctor?

If my daughter had any doubts about getting pregnant, that would be her decision and I wouldn’t impose my opinions on her. But what I would impose on her would be the advice to see a doctor. And if she in fact were the victim of a sexual assault, see the police. The last thing I would want her doing is making a brightly-lit vending machine her physician.

We are living in a world where you can get access to just about anything you want or need whether it’s by way of vending machines, cell phone apps or the like. I think this has probably gone too far.

And this isn’t a pro-life, pro-abortion or really any stance like that at all. It’s a common sense stance where I just want to see young women consult professionals like their doctors.

And of course now the government and all the agencies will jump into the matter. Sounds to me like someone should have thought of this before allowing such powerful medications into the same machines that kick out snacks, aspirin or a bottle of Pepsi…

— Andy Hachadorian

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About fromtheeditorchair

I am the editor of the Daily Local News.
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