Vending Machine Plan B

By Katelyn Canon

April 18, 2013

Plan B is now available in in vending machines. At least at the University of Pennsylvania. The health center on campus at Penn now vends the emergency contraceptive for $25. While I understand that the mores and mindset of the Midwest are more conservative than that of the east coast, I think making Plan B more accessible is a socially responsible action. Before some irate reader thinks I’m a complete liberal lunatic, hear me out. Most importantly, I don’t think that Plan B should be the only contraceptive that is readily accessible to the sexually active population. I worked as a pharmacy technician for a couple years and encountering women who were struggling to pay their birth control copays was a daily occurrence. I can even remember turning away customers that couldn’t pay. Since then, the Affordable Healthcare Act has been implemented to a degree, but the coverage provided under the Act is stipulated by the individual’s health care provider. So the problem persists. Why should birth control only be available to a select group of women when an unplanned pregnancy can set back or derail any woman’s career, regardless of her health coverage? We can’t accept this lack of coverage and preventative health care, especially when it could be readily available. Let me establish that birth control should always be the first measure in preventing an unplanned pregnancy, but Plan B should also be accessible to those who need to use it as a second preventative measure. Let me clarify. Plan B is not equivalent to a medication abortion. Instead of terminating a pregnancy, Plan B prevents conception and implantation in the uterus. They are two very different procedures. As a pharmacy tech, I dispensed Plan B, and its generic, multiple times. As nonchalant as a customer tried to be, I always felt that they thought I was judging them. The whole exchange was awkward. I always felt that I should say something like, “You’re making a responsible decision,” but instead I would just slide the card stock box into a paper pharmacy bag and staple the receipt on top. If I couldn’t reassure a customer, at least I could ensure a little privacy and discretion on her behalf. I never minded selling emergency contraceptives to customers and it is still something I think I will defend for the rest of my life. Screwing with someone’s reproductive rights is wrong. So if dispensing Plan B in vending machines makes it accessible to students that need emergency contraceptives, I only hope that vending machines also dedicate a row or two to the birth control too.