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Public university to sell emergency contraceptive Plan B from vending machine

Student government leaders at the University of California-Santa Barbara have approved the purchase of a vending machine to be filled with contraceptives as well as the morning-after pill, also known as Plan B.

UCSB’s Associated Students Finance and Business Committee approved the request from Health and Wellness of $11,500 to purchase the machine and its contents, a spreadsheet of approved expenditures shows.

A member of the committee also confirmed to The College Fix the request was approved at its Nov. 2 meeting. University officials and campus health representatives did not respond to requests from The College Fix seeking comment on when the machine will be open for business.

Additional campuses that have vending machines dispensing Plan B include the Claremont Colleges and Dartmouth College.

According to the Daily Nexus campus newspaper, the UCSB machine will include “emergency contraception (Plan B), condoms, lube, tampons, pads and nonprescription pain relievers” and will be available for use 24 hours, 7 days a week.

The finance committee member told The Fix that health officials said they planned to use proceeds from the vending machine sales to keep it restocked, and that the condoms to be hawked in the machine will be a higher quality than the ones already doled out for free by campus health programs.

UCSB Health and Wellness currently provides birth control pills, Nuvaring, the patch, Depo-Provera, spermicides and latex, condoms and over the counter emergency contraceptives for students, according to its website.

But Health and Wellness representative Eyra Dordi said the vending machine is needed because it can be difficult for students at the university to get Plan B on the weekends, the Nexus reported.

She told the committee that pharmacies around campus can run out of Plan B and the nearest Planned Parenthood is too far from campus.

“The problem we have on campus right now is that there is a lack of access to Plan B on campus on the weekends. Currently, at Student Health, you can get Plan B for $25 which is much cheaper than other places where Plan B can cost up to $50 or $60,” she said.

“The problem is if you have unprotected sex on a Friday, you would not be able to get Plan B from Student Health until Monday, when Plan B would be far less effective,” she added.

The Finance and Business Committee only votes on procedural issues – whether student groups like Health and Wellness followed the rules to apply for the funding and if they qualify for the funding – and does not debate the merits of the proposal.

UCSB would not be the first public university to include a vending machine that dispenses Plan B on its campus. Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania installed the first vending machine in 2010.

The vending machine went largely undetected for two years, but in 2012, it drew nationwide scrutiny toward the college and an inquiry from the Food and Drug Administration. While the federal regulatory agency agreed it would take a look into the matter, it later announced it wouldn’t take any action and the college was allowed to continue selling Plan B out of the machine.

Not all students are pleased with the vending machine’s approval.

“Instead of raising tuition to make students complicit in paying for drugs that intentionally bring about the death of an unborn human being, students should instead be encouraged to use their sexual powers responsibly and virtuously,” said Carlos Flores, president of UCSB’s Anscombe Society, which defends sexual purity, in a statement to The College Fix. “But this is to assume that the Health and Wellness center is truly concerned with health and wellness, which evidently is not the case.”

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Nathan Rubbelke -- Saint Louis University

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