Contraception is something on the minds of many college students as nearly every study concludes that, among all university students, at least 60% are sexually active. Since more than half of the campus is involved in sexual activities, one important factor should be on every sexually active person’s mind: contraception. It is needed to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but also avoid painful, medically expensive and embarrassing STI’s that can be easily averted.
A bill in the Maryland general assembly named “Public Health – Access to Emergency Contraception – Student Health Centers and Vending Machines” has been introduced as a possible solution. The bill would require all public institutions to provide contraception at the school’s health center and contraceptive counseling when needed.
However, the primary interest of the bill is that, after regular operation hours, there should be another option for college students: vending machines. The possibility of adding vending machines that are accessible at all hours of the day and night could prevent sexually related issues.
Incorporating this idea all around campus for contraception and the morning-after pill will encourage people to take advantage of it instead of going without protection. Maya Mueller, a senior math major, believes that, “having condoms and morning after pills in an out-of-the-way, corner vending machine would be highly beneficial,” adding, “I feel like [the bill] could prevent many unwanted pregnancies and reduce stress amongst sexually active students.”
Young people still have the highest likelihood of contracting an STD, with the 15 to 24 age group accounting for 53% of all gonorrhea cases and 65% of chlamydia cases. However, the bill does not only include condoms, but also Plan-B, a necessary emergency contraception needed in order to stop pregnancies within a few days of unprotected sexual activity.
Some of these vending machines have already been installed on college campuses with a successful debut. Part of the reason why vending machines are needed is due to closed health service buildings during vacations or the weekends as well as pharmacies incorrectly imposing age restrictions on who can buy Plan-B.
A study done by American Academy of Pediatrics showed that 8.3% of pharmacies state that emergency contraception is impossible to obtain, usually in low-income neighborhoods, and that 51.6% of the time pharmacies did not provide correct information, such as on age restrictions.
Mueller relates this to her own personal experiences, describing how she, “had to spend a couple of days researching online, calling up Planned Parenthood Centers and watching online tutorials in order to educate [herself] on sexual health and contraceptive measures.” If campus services offered easy access to Plan-B, the sometimes confusing information regarding safe sex could be made just a little bit easier.
Pharmacies failing to provide accurate care along with the limited schedules of college health services reveals how important providing emergency contraception at all times is an issue that can at least partially be solved with the vending machines from the bill.
Maryland needs to join the growing number of schools that support this position of all-access emergency contraception. Even if the bill does not pass, UMBC should consider the idea anyway as installing emergency contraception in the vending machines would be another step forward in ensuring the health and safety of everyone on campus.