Plan B Vending Machines Approved By FDA

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, January 30, 2013 10:09 EDT
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Excellent news: Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania may have found an interesting workaround to one problem created by the HHS caving to forced birthers and forcing the FDA to continue with the scientifically unfounded policy of requiring ID proving you’re 17 or older to get emergency contraception. The policy has, so far, meant that Plan B has to be put behind pharmacy counters, where customers have to ask for it. That means that customers have to wait until the pharmacy is open, schedule a visit around their own schedule, and overcome the embarrassment of asking. And that’s if it goes well! There’s also the chance that the pharmacist will decide that this is an invitation to sit in judgment of your sex life and refuse to give you the pills to punish you for what they’ve decided must be true about it. Interestingly, many victims of this have been men, because the pharmacists can’t imagine there is such thing as a man who is nice enough to pick up his girlfriend’s meds for her, so they decide any man claiming to do so much be a lying pervert up to no good.  And of course, there are pharmacists who believe that their duty as medical professionals to offer care doesn’t apply to women they deem slutty, because presumably if you’re a sexually active woman, you get bounced from the human race in their eyes, meaning their duty to serve people doesn’t cover you. (Though they probably will still sell medications for your pet!)

What the university did was install a vending machine that, with a simple swipe of your ID and a payment of $25, will give you the drug.

And after reviewing Shippensburg’s vending machine — which now requires students to swipe their IDs, an extra step to verify they attend the college and are above 17 years old — FDA officials have concluded there’s nothing wrong with expanding access to birth control in this way. “FDA looked at publicly available information about Shippenburg’s vending program and spoke with university and campus health officials and decided not to take any regulatory actions,” an agency official told Public Opinion.

This isn’t really surprising, because if the FDA had their druthers, there would be no age requirement at all.  Indeed, I believe the only reason there is one is purely political; the Obama administration didn’t want the right to run a bunch of ads about how his administration is letting junior high kids get birth control, which will invariably be called “abortion” by a right wing that’s given up on even pretending to give a shit about the truth. (Emergency contraception works by preventing ovulation, and is less an “abortificant” than jumping up and down a lot.) Of course, junior high kids can, in fact, already buy birth control such as condoms. The real thing that sets right wingers off is the possibility of girls controlling their own bodies, especially doing so after sex. After the penis-flag has been planted, you ladies are supposed to relinquish all control, didn’t you know?

Vending machines address some timing problems for the 17-and-over set—the sooner you take emergency contraception, the more likely it is to suppress your ovulation in time, which is why delays created by the pharmacy counter are such a problem—but it doesn’t address some of the other problems with the restrictions on the drug. It doesn’t do much to help girls under 17 who have had unprotected sex, which is especially troubling when you consider that this is an age group that’s especially high risk for being raped. It also doesn’t help people who don’t have IDs, which is surprisingly common for people in their late teens and early 20s. Neither is an issue for college kids, of course, who have student IDs and are over 17. But it would be nice if high school kids could use this vending machine.

Clearly, what needs to happen is for the FDA to open up another inquiry line into emergency contraception and, once again, determine that it’s safe to be sold OTC without an ID. This time, the Obama administration has no reason to interfere. Until then, I hope this vending machine idea really takes off.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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