As the pro-choice and pro-life debate rages on across the country, institutions of higher learning have found themselves caught in the crossfire.
Shippensburg University, a college located in Shippensburg, Pa., became a topic of national discussion when it installed what has been called America’s first Plan B vending machine http://www.ibtimes.com/shippensburg-university-plan-b-vending-machine-what-plan-b-407398in early 2012.
And though many have argued over the safety and legality of the machine, the Food and Drug Administration released a statement last week declaring that Shippensburg’s actions are completely legal, and the university will be allowed to keep its machine.
With the approval of the FDA, one might think that progressive women’s reproductive rights were starting to gain some traction in terms of legality. Unfortunately, it has only divided the country further. Pushing religious reasons aside, it’s imperative to examine just what benefits a Plan B vending machine would provide for any college or university in the United States.
Though some are under the false assumption that Plan B is a dangerous “abortion pill,” the drug itself actually contains less harmful chemicals than the typical aspirin and, if taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex, it will simply prevent pregnancy — not terminate one.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, around 49 percent of pregnancies in the U.S. are considered “unwanted pregnancies.” And considering the fact that not all of these women have access to proper family planning and healthcare, a large fraction of that percentage will actually give birth to their babies, who were “unwanted” in the first place.
This is not some liberal agenda put forth by our government — these are the facts. And our government’s main priority should be keeping its citizens safe and protected — whether it’s overseas or in our beds. By allowing something as simple as a Plan B vending machine to take root in our schools, perhaps the stigma of sexual safety will soon dissipate.
And Shippensburg didn’t force this idea upon its students. In fact, the university only thought of the idea after it conducted a survey in which 85 percent of students declared that they wished that they had better access to Plan B on campus grounds. For some women, asking for Plan B can be awkward and uncomfortable, and by removing the middleman, they might feel more safe and comfortable purchasing it.
And it’s not like any 14-year-old girl could walk up to the machine and buy some Plan B. To keep everyone safe, Shippensburg installed an ID swipe, which verifies the age of the purchaser. Plus, the product is only $25 in contrast to the $50+ one generally pays in a pharmacy.
The existence of a Plan B vending machine doesn’t mean that everyone who has sex must immediately purchase a pack out of it just as the existence of an abortion clinic doesn’t mean that everyone who gets pregnant must have an abortion. The important thing is allowing every woman the ability to choose what happens to her own body.
Hopefully, more colleges will take this cue and offer similar machines on their campuses. Access to Plan B can only help the issue of unwanted teen pregnancies. Students at USC are lucky enough to attend a school that offers counseling and several pharmacies located close by; many students across the country do not have that option.
The pro-choice/pro-life debate is one of such vitriolic attitudes that it’s bound to make a mark on our generation. Instead of focusing on the facts and welfare of the women in our nation, some have chosen to push their ideologies and religious beliefs on the whole population.
College students are not going to stop having sex, and forcing one to have a baby is not an adequate punishment. It is time that America begins to have serious discussions toward making a final, legal and justified decision on the issue of contraceptive rights.
Sheridan Watson is a junior majoring in critical studies. She is also the editorial
director of the Daily Trojan.