Towson U. Considers Birth Control Vending Machine

The proposal comes after Pennsylvania's Shippensburg University finds itself in the news for its two-year-old program.


As late last week,  officials are considering a vending machine that could offer the morning-after pill and other contraceptives.

But not any time soon, said Dr. Jane Halpern, director of the university's health center.

"I don't know that we would even have room for it in our current building," Halpern said. "Even if we wanted to, I'm not sure we could feasibly do it."

However, with the health center slated to get a new building in coming years, Halpern said the machine is an option.

Towson's idea is modeled on a plan at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. There, students slide money into a vending machine to buy contraceptives, condoms, cold medicine or pregnancy tests. The contraceptive, known as Plan B, costs $25, and the machine only takes cash.

Right now, the pill is freely available to Towson students with a visit to the health center. Students must see a nurse and pay $25. The pill is already more affordable and accessible to students—it can retail for as much as $60 off campus, Halpern said.

The only barrier, Halpern said, is that some students might not be comfortable with having to talk to someone about needing the pill.

With a vending machine in a controlled area, Halpern said, "It's more private, you could come and just purchase it on your own."

The state government also funds a supply of free condoms, distributed at the health center's front desk and other locations across campus.

Plan B contains a dose of the contraceptive drug Levonorgestrel. If taken within about 72 hours after intercourse, can prevent conception.

"As a philosophical thing, I have no problem with it. I think it's important for people to understand that Plan B is a legitimate birth control method," Halpern said. However, "It's not as effective as a regular birth control method and it's a lot more expensive."

The vending machine at Shippensburg is accessible to anyone with a university ID, who must sign in at the front desk to access it. Such a setup would likely be needed at Towson, according to Halpern.

"I think as long as they follow the law and the people are 17, the more access they have, the better," said Jodi Finkelstein, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland in Silver Spring. "If they decide they have any questions, they can still ask the nurse or the doctor while they're there."

The machine has been on the Shippensburg campus for more than two years without incident or controversy. However, federal Food and Drug Administration officials are talking to state and university officials in Pennsylvania about the machines, the Associated Press reported last week.

Some experts and organizations, the AP reported, are concerned about making an over-the-counter medication like Plan B more accessible.

That includes Anna Franzonello, staff counsel at Americans United for Life in Washington.

"It's really irresponsible for the university to present a drug like that to their students as no more harmful than any other item they can get out of a vending machine," Franzonello said.

Franzonello called the drug "life-ending," as federal studies show that it can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman's uterus.

The news comes as birth control is in the national political spotlight following a controversial Obama administration ruling that most employers, , must offer contraceptives as part of their health insurance.

The rule was later revised to place the burden on insurance companies, The Huffington Post reported.

Carole Miller February 17, 2012 at 08:43 PM
What is happening to this world ? Hey Loyola and others ,now you all don't have to worry ,just run over Towson U for lunch ,and stop by the vending machine . You're Government is looking out for you !! I may need a head Doc. after reading The Patch every day.
slikhenry April 03, 2013 at 02:23 PM
a government that has birth control policy should support the supply of the birth control vending machine. Henry from University of Nigeria. unn.edu.ng


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