A group of students at Boston University has brought a vending machine to campus that dispenses Plan B at a lower cost for students, NBC Boston reported.
Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill, is a form emergency contraception that can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or when another birth control method might’ve failed.
The vending machine, one of the first of its kind in the country, is located in the basement of the student union on Boston University's campus, NBC Boston reported. Instead of snacks, the machine is stocked with a generic version of Plan B (levonorgestrel) sold for $7.25 and accepts all major credit cards, according to BU Today, Boston University's daily news site.
Efforts to install the machine were led by a Planned Parenthood-affiliated group called Students for Reproductive Freedom, who were inspired by a similar vending machine at Brandeis University, a spokesperson told NBC Boston.
Students can also access emergency contraception through the university's student health services, which financially sponsors Students for Reproductive Freedom and orders the contraception for the machine, BU Today reported.
“We just wanted something that was low cost and easy to access. You don’t need to take a train across town. You don’t need to call a doctor. It’s right there, and you can get it as soon as you need it,” Charlotte Beatty, former co-president of the group, told NBC Boston. Since March, the machine has sold over 1,000 emergency contraception pills.
Plan B and its generic versions can be purchased over the counter at most pharmacies and ordered online from major retailers without any age restrictions. Plan B usually costs $40 to $50, but the generic options can range from $11 to $45, according to Planned Parenthood.
Demand for the pills has soared since the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that established the constitutional right to abortion. While the Supreme Court's decision on Roe does not immediately implicate emergency contraception, it could pave the way for reduced access to contraception, experts previously told TODAY. In fact, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his concurring opinion on Roe that the court "should reconsider" the case that established the right to contraception, among other cases.
Since Roe was overturned, drugstores including CVS and Rite-Aid have limited purchases of morning-after pills, both citing a desire "to ensure equitable access." And Amazon temporarily capped online purchases of Plan B to three units per week due to spike in demand.
“The overturning of Roe made us even more proud to offer this service to people in our community,” Molly Baker, the group’s former co-president, told NBC Boston.
Abortion is legal in Massachusetts until week 24 of pregnancy, after which it's permitted if a doctor decides the fetus is "incompatible with sustained life outside the uterus," according to NBC Boston.
Although the vending machine was installed in March, it's gotten recent attention on social media. “It’s going viral because people are scared, and this is a solution,” Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director of Boston-based nonprofit Reproductive Equity Now, which honored the student group at a recent gala, told NBC Boston.
Plan B — which contains a high dose (1.5mg) of progestin, a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone, which helps regulate the menstrual cycle — works by inhibiting or delaying ovulation, and can be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, but is more effective the sooner you take it, experts previously told TODAY. Plan B does not cause an abortion and has no effect on an existing pregnancy, experts previously told TODAY.
According to a survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women between the ages of 20 and 24 are more likely than any other age group to have used emergency contraception, with about one in four (23%) having done so.
The students who spearheaded the machine hope to install more machines across campus and potentially stock them with different types of medication, NBC Boston reported. The group has also published a resource guide to help students at other colleges who want to install a Plan B vending machine on their campus.