New Initiative: Plan B Vending Machines

It’s late Friday night, and you’re in bed with a guy. Whether it was the condom breaking or forgetting to use one at all, you’re paranoid. You rush over to the nearest 24-hour pharmacy, and they’ve run out of Plan B. The pharmacist tells you that you can go to the Travis Air Force Base, which is the second nearest 24-hour pharmacy. You can’t make it there because you don’t have a car. You can’t go to the Student Health and Wellness Center either because, although they do provide Plan B from 9 AM to 5 PM on weekdays, they aren't open at the time.  It’s an unfortunate circumstance to find yourself in; it’s one where you feel absolutely helpless. Yet, it’s a situation with which UC Davis college students are particularly familiar.

Aware of this emergency contraceptives’ inaccessibility, ASUCD Senators Sevan Nahabedian and Parteek Singh are raising this issue on campus. It's ironic that contraceptives aren't available on campus from Friday night to Monday morning if they’re sold out at the drug store. After all, this is the stretch of the week when people are partaking in sexual intercourse the most. 

Local pharmacy workers say that during high traffic weeks like Welcome Week, they completely run out of those pills. This is terrifying to any poor soul seeking out emergency contraception. Although there is a 72-hour window to consume Plan B and you could, in theory, wait until Saturday or Sunday to take the pill after having sex on Friday, it’s no secret that its efficacy decreases by the hour. You want to take the emergency contraceptive as soon as possible. 

The 24/7 accessibility of emergency contraceptives isn’t the only thing Nahabedian and Singh are most worried about; they’ve also voiced concern for the privacy of its consumers, having mentioned that their female friends have asked them on many occasions if they’d mind going to the store to buy Plan B for them. 

The reality is that we worry that we will run into someone we know while we are standing in line with the box in our hands. We worry about the judgment of others and what the cashier who is ringing us up is thinking about us. There’s an irrational stigma attached with being the girl who goes to the store to buy the Plan B for herself, and it adds onto the pre-existing layer of stress we already have over the whole situation. 

So, what is Nahabedian and Singh’s proposal to solving this problem? They want vending machines that sell emergency contraceptives in discrete spaces across campus. The vending machine proposition would allow emergency contraceptives to be available on campus at all times. We would no longer need to walk up to the cashier with it in our hands shamefully, and we also would no longer need to worry about running into as many familiar faces during such a stressful time. We would also be able to buy emergency contraceptives at the school’s price for $30 instead of paying $50 at the nearest Rite Aid or CVS pharmacy. 

The plan would be a major stress reliever for many sexually active students, and our student leaders are working hard to get it put into action as soon as they can. So far, only two schools in the nation have emergency contraceptive vending machines, and many of us would like to be the third. Pomona College’s proposal took three years to get approved and put into effect, but their success shows that the initiative is possible to effectuate. The senators are currently consulting and strategizing with university officials on how to get the proposition approved. They’re also continuing to collaborate with our Student Health and Wellness Center on this issue.

The point is, if UC Davis is already providing its students with emergency contraceptives at certain times of the week, why shouldn’t they make it available at all times?

Parteek Singh ('17) began his term for ASUCD in January. Sevan Nahabedian ('18), a current ASUCD senator, is running for a second term at this time; his platforms include expanding the Bike Barn and increasing student engagement in athletics.

Please remember to VOTE in the ASUCD Election this week, from February 16-19th online at election.asucd.edu.