The current access to Plan B One Step emergency contraception on the Brandeis campus is inadequate. Brandeis provides Plan B at a discounted price to students. As of now, students can only access Plan B at the Health Center from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Brandeis Pro-Choice, a student-led club that advocates for reproductive justice, is proposing the implementation of a vending machine on campus that would sell Plan B as well as other wellness products such as condoms, menstrual products, painkillers and pregnancy tests. This machine would be accessible to students 24/7 to make sure they can get essential sexual health resources whenever they need them.
Plan B can be taken up to three days after unprotected sex, but is more effective the sooner one takes it. When a student has to wait for the Health Center to open in order to get emergency contraception, it decreases the effectiveness and increases the chance that the student will become pregnant. The only other option for students to get Plan B is to go to Walgreens, which is about a mile away. At Walgreens, along with other similar drug stores, the medication costs about $50, a burden and cost that is not feasible for some students.
We think the ideal location for this vending machine is the first floor of the Shapiro Campus Center (SCC) next to the existing snack machines. This will balance privacy and security since no one would know what specific product a student was going over to buy but is also in a safe, well-monitored space on campus. The cost to students must be as low as possible, especially since the university purchases Plan B from a vendor for only $15 per box, according to Diana Denning, the Administrative Director and a Nurse Practitioner.
This machine would have numerous advantages for students as well as the university. It provides students with more privacy compared to the current process of making an appointment at the Health Center, which gets billed through the student’s insurance. It is also more cost effective and allows for 24/7 access so they can maximize the effectiveness of the Plan B.
Additionally, the Health Center administers the pills, they do not give them out, so only females can get Plan B from there as of now, which can place a physical and emotional burden on these students. With the advent of a vending machine on campus, all genders would have the ability to access and procure Plan B, allowing partners to share financial responsibility for Plan B.
The vending machine also saves the Health Center money because it will not have to cover appointments for students unwilling or unable to have their insurance cover the emergency contraceptive, thereby freeing its budget for other important services, according to Denning who we met with to discuss the university’s Plan B system.
Plan B is free at the Health Center, and the cost of the appointment is either billed to the student’s insurance, or—if their plan will not cover it, or the student has confidentiality concerns—Brandeis will cover the cost.
Additionally, the vending machine would be an important resource to have for survivors of sexual assault. The burden for survivors to access Plan B should be as low as possible when they have already experienced an emotionally traumatic assault. The machine would allow survivors to access Plan B on their own time and in a private space.
Finally, a vending machine selling Plan B would be an important step in reaffirming Brandeis’ commitment to student health and wellness. It would establish Brandeis as a leader in sexual health and set an important precedent for other schools across the country.
If you or a club you are involved with would like to support this initiative, Brandeis Pro-Choice will be tabling throughout the month. Endorsements are greatly appreciated and can be emailed to Susannah Miller ’19 at email@example.com. We will also be sending out a survey in which students can anonymously relate personal experiences with Plan B and give anonymous testimony if they so wish. Brandeis Pro-Choice meets every Wednesday from 7 to 8 p.m. in Schwartz 110.