THE NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Morning-after pills in vending machines may promote unprotected sex

Have we fallen too far down the rabbit hole of sexual freedom? Now at some universities students can buy emergency contraception like candy from vending machines.

Do we really want to facilitate less accountability for sexual relations in our country?

A story in last month reported that students seeking the “morning-after pill” (Plan B or its generic alternative) can just find a vending machine at Silliman College, the resident college at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., to purchase emergency contraception.

The morning-after pill, which is most effective when taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex, contains a higher dose of the synthetic hormone in birth control pills. It delays the release of an egg from the ovary. Unlike the “abortion pill” mifepristone, which induces miscarriage, if an egg has already implanted in the uterus, Plan B cannot end the pregnancy.

“A new 24/7 ‘wellness to-go’ vending machine will soon sell emergency contraception, as well as other over-the-counter medications, condoms and lube,” the student newspaper reported. “The machine will be installed in Silliman’s Good Life Center before winter break.”

Yale student government’s plans to stock its vending machine with emergency contraception and other health-related items, however, were stymied when they learned that a Connecticut law bars the vending of over-the-counter drugs, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

“This is a big disappointment,” said Yale College Council president Saloni Rao, who plans to stock the machine with condoms.

Still, Barnard College in New York plans to install a morning-after-pill vending machine, according to the Journal. And Columbia University, Stanford University, Dartmouth College, Brandeis, Pomona College and a few University of California campuses have already installed vending machines with Plan B or generic morning-after pills. The student council at Miami of Ohio voted last month, says the WSJ, to sell emergency contraception in campus markets.

The idea of a Plan B vending machine at Yale was proposed last fall by student Grace Cheung, according to the student newspaper, who “emphasized that unprotected sex frequently occurs on campus and purchasing emergency contraception can be an inconvenient and ‘humiliating process.’ ”

“Hopefully this will set a precedent for more machines to show up around campus that contain other things so Yale students don’t have to go out of their way to go to CVS,” said Ileana Valdez, the student representative who led the campaign to install the machine.

While making it easier to get morning-after pills might make it less likely for a girl to get pregnant, this kind of casual freedom from responsibility for actions will also make it more likely that she will have unprotected sex, increasing the chance of contracting and spreading sexually transmitted diseases.

The National Coalition of STD Directors says a new report from the National Academy of Public Administration calls for urgent concrete action to address skyrocketing STDs in the U.S. Promoting less accountability and more convenience after unprotected sex isn’t the answer.

Vending machines for morning-after pills won’t help.