ASPC Considers Plan B Vending Machine

Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) is currently debating whether to install dispensaries selling emergency contraceptives at Pomona, which would give students 24/7 access to Plan B. 

“We hope to have 1 to 2 machines on campus that would allow Pomona students to purchase Plan B,” ASPC President Sarah Appelbaum PO ’13 wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “As of yet, the talks to bring the dispensary to the Colleges have not been finalized. ASPC is still settling unresolved logistical questions, such as where the machine will be located and where the funding will come from.”

Student Health Services (SHS) currently offers Plan B to students for a subsidized $20, but SHS is closed on weekends and at night, which could pose a problem for students who are not able to make an appointment in time for the contraceptive to be most effective.

ASPC has scheduled a meeting with the Health Education Outreach (HEO) office to discuss the idea's feasibility, possible collaboration, and any obstacles that may arise, such as liability issues or bulk purchasing of Plan B.

“The ASPC is currently reaching out to both Health Education Outreach and Student Health Services to see if they might be interested in providing this service to students,” wrote Ellie Ash-Balá, Assistant Director of the Smith Campus Center (SCC) and Student Programs, in an e-mail to TSL. “If HEO/SHS are not able to assist with this project, ASPC has not yet discussed whether they would fund the setup of the machine or whether they will continue to seek outside partners.”

According to Ash-Balá, students purchasing Plan B from the proposed dispensaries would not be charged more than the price of the medication and any administrative overhead fees. If implemented, the price of Plan B from the dispensary would be the same as if students were to make an appointment with SHS to purchase emergency contraceptives.

At a past ASPC meeting, senators raised concerns about how to ensure that all buyers of the morning-after pill were above the legal age of 17. Under current federal law, all women of childbearing age can use emergency contraceptives, but only those aged 17 and over can buy the drug without a prescription.

“Other colleges that have done this typically connect the age restriction to a swipe of an ID card,” Ash-Balá wrote. “So the idea would be to pay via Claremont Cash on your Student ID card, and if you are not yet 17 the machine will not work for you.”

Ash-Balá also wrote that the issue of a student aged 16 or under trying to illegally buy emergency contraceptives from the dispensaries would be rare, since most first-years are at least 17 years of age when they arrive on campus.

“Lack of contraception isn’t going to stop people from having sex, so I don’t see how this could be a bad thing,” Ryan Smith PO ’16 said.

According to Appelbaum, the general consensus in the ASPC Senate thus far has been in favor of the installation.

“The only differences of opinion in Senate currently are about specifics such as location, whether the dispensing machine would just contain Plan B or would include other safe(r) sex implements such as condoms, dental dams, and lubrication, and who would be in charge of maintaining the machine(s),” Appelbaum wrote.

ASPC Commissioner of Community Relations Darrell Jones III PO ’14 is seeking to expand the assortment of items the vending machines offer beyond the morning-after pill.

“I'm seeking to include a more comprehensive assortment of safe sex aides,” he wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “Higher quality condoms, different types of lube, and other items which promote fun, safe sex. The idea is that we want to (literally) cover students on the front end of safe sexual encounters in addition to helping them resolve the tail end of a hopefully rare, but altogether possible, unfortunate sexual encounter.”

Jones also said that expanding the dispensaries’ offerings could help to prevent them from developing a stigma as “shame-inducing ‘Plan B machines.’”