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Vending machine dispenses emergency contraception

By Julie Cannold, CNN
updated 11:15 PM EST, Wed February 8, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania offers vending machine contraception
  • Plan B One-Step offered in vending machine at school's Etter Health Center
  • Plan B used to prevent pregnancy; taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex

(CNN) -- Vending machine offerings at a Pennsylvania university are expanding beyond the world of junk food and into the world of contraception.

Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania now offers the emergency contraceptive Plan B One-Step in a vending machine in the school's Etter Health Center, according to Peter Gigliotti, Executive Director for University Communications and Marketing.

According to Gigliotti, the university started making Plan B available after a survey found that 85% of students supported doing so. The vending machine is located in a private room in the health center, which is only accessible by students after they have checked in with a front desk and been granted access to the treatment area, Gigliotti said.

Plan B is an emergency contraception that can be used to prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex, according to the FDA. It is available over the counter without a prescription for women over the age of 17. According to Gigliotti, all current Shippensburg students are 17 or older.

"The machine is really used as much for privacy as anything else if a student wants to come in," VP of Student Affairs Roger Serr told CNN affiliate WHP.

According to WHP, one dose costs the student $25, which is the same amount the university pays for the pill. About 350 to 400 doses are sold each year at the university.

"At this school (Shippensburg) you can get the morning-after pill the same way you would a can of soda," said Jeanne Monahan, director of the Center for Human Dignity. "It defies common sense."

A survey done by the American College Health Association found that 83% of schools surveyed do dispense or sell emergency contraception. While the survey was of 174 schools, Dr. Davis Smith, a member of ACHA, believes that is representative of colleges across the country.

While Smith, who is a physician at Wesleyan University, has not heard of any other campus selling emergency contraception out of a vending machine, he does not see it as a problem. "We know Plan B is safe and effective, so it's really no different from ibuprofen or some other medication available in a vending machine."

Known possible side effects of Plan B include nausea, lower abdominal pain, fatigue, headache, and dizziness.

CNN's Chris Dignam contributed to this report.

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