Yale University will not follow dozens of other schools nationwide and dispense contraception pills through campus vending machines, because it is barred by state law.
"The wellness machines will not be available on campus," wrote Karen N. Peart, director of external communications at the Yale Office of Public Affairs and Communications, to VOA via email. Connecticut "state laws currently do not permit over-the-counter medications to be sold through these machines."
But Peart asserted that Yale would continue to provide Plan B, often referred to as the "morning-after pill," free to students through the campus health center, along with the Paragard IUD, another emergency contraceptive option, and comprehensive counseling regarding contraception and reproductive health.
"These products have been available at the Yale Health Pharmacy for many years before a group of students originated the idea of piloting a wellness machine," Peart wrote.
Access growing nationwide
Yale would have joined a growing list of universities in the United States to install machines that offer condoms, emergency contraception and lubricant last month. Contraception pills under the commercial name Plan B can be taken up to five days after intercourse to thwart conception.
"The point of this is to make Plan B more accessible and to make medications, in general, more accessible," said Ileana Valdez, a Yale sophomore who spearheaded the effort, according to Yale Daily News. "Hopefully this will set a precedent for more machines to show up around campus that contain other things so Yale students don't have to go out of their way to go to [convenience stores], especially students from the new colleges."
Plan B, or levonorgestrel, can reduce the risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent, according to the Plan B One-Step website. "The sooner it's taken, the better it works," says the website.
According to the website of the Mayo Clinic, one of the largest not-for-profit academic health systems in the United States, levonorgestrel is an option when intercourse did not include physical, hormonal or device protection such as condoms, birth-control pills taken daily and over time, or intrauterine devices.
"Morning-after pills can help prevent pregnancy if you've had unprotected sex," the website explains. "Morning-after pills do not end a pregnancy that has implanted. They work primarily by delaying or preventing ovulation. ... [this] isn't the same as mifepristone (Mifeprex), also known as RU-486 or the abortion pill [which] terminates an established pregnancy — one in which the fertilized egg has attached to the uterine wall and has begun to develop."
Student health services
A survey by the American College Health Association conducted throughout 2015 showed 79 percent of surveyed colleges and universities offered Plan B or over-the-counter emergency contraceptives to students through their student health services.
The list of schools that offer levonorgestrel in vending machines is growing, including colleges and universities from large to small, and driven by student demand. A number of University of California campuses, Dartmouth College, and Stanford University were among some of the first.
A fall survey showed more than 75 percent of students questioned said they were unaware that Yale Health offers emergency contraception around the clock and for free, the Yale Daily News reported.
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. sold Plan B One-Step and other emergency contraception products to Foundation Consumer Healthcare in a $675 million sale in November 2017. The contraception, which previously required a doctor's prescription, became available without a prescription to women 17 and older, although some schools will dispense the drug to males.