As of now, eighteen states have some kind of abortion ban in place, with thirteen of them having full bans. For many women in their childbearing ages, this is the most at-risk we’ve seen reproductive rights be in our lifetime. Now, more than ever, community-based efforts to make things like emergency contraception accessible and affordable are crucial to maintaining some semblance of control over our own bodies–and can quite literally help save lives.
That’s why students like Neharika Rao at George Washington University are so inspiring. Rao and a group of fellow students were able to get a vending machine installed in the University Student Center that provides emergency contraceptives at a low cost right on campus. The machine also sells things like tampons and Advil, and allows students to discreetly and conveniently access these products whenever they may need them.
The student group responsible for getting the machine at George Washington University said in an interview with NBC that they were inspired by students at other universities who have installed emergency contraceptive vending machines on their own campuses. Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania was one of the first campuses to install an emergency contraception vending machine in 2012. Boston University was also one of the earlier schools to have the machines installed, and NBC reports that it has dispensed more than one thousand pills since its unveiling. The American Society for Emergency Contraception says that there are over two dozen colleges and universities with at least one Plan B vending machine on campus, and that number will hopefully continue to grow.
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If you’re interested in getting a vending machine like this at your school, The American Society for Emergency Contraception is a fantastic resource. One of their biggest projects is EC4EC or Emergency Contraception For Every Campus, which exclusively works on making sure all college campuses have accessible and affordable emergency contraception available. They can help you and other students get a vending machine on your campus, or, if you are attending a religiously affiliated college, or one that is located rurally and away from pharmacies, they can help you implement a peer-to-peer distribution system. This is a way for students to confidentially provide emergency contraceptives to classmates and avoid the barriers that might otherwise make it difficult to access contraception.
The future for reproductive rights is not guaranteed, and it’s high time we acknowledge that and get to work supporting and protecting each other. With young people, and especially young women, leading the way, I think we just might be alright.
Top photo from Pexels by George Pak
Zoë is a writer and journalist from Minnesota currently based in Chicago. In her free time she likes to watch TV but she usually lies and says her favorite hobby is reading. She is working towards a career that combines her passion for comedy and journalism to create a more informed and equitable world.