In Massachusetts, California, Pennsylvania and other states, students on some college campuses can purchase the “morning-after” pill from vending machines.
But students in Connecticut don’t have that option because Connecticut is the only state that prohibits the sale of any over-the-counter medications in vending machines, according to the American Society for Emergency Contraceptives.
The emergency contraceptive, commonly called Plan B, has been approved for purchase for those 15 and older without a prescription since 2013. Before that, a prescription was required for teenagers 17 and younger.
With the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June, there’s been a flurry of activity across the country to protect reproductive rights. In Connecticut, a new law provides safeguards for out-of-state residents seeking abortions, while other states have restricted or outlawed abortion access entirely.
For years, college clubs and organizations have been working to ensure access for students’ health care needs, including making emergency contraceptives available on campus in vending machines. This year, Students for Reproductive Freedom at Boston University unveiled an emergency contraceptive vending machine in the student union building.
Some Connecticut colleges, such as the University of Connecticut, Yale University and Wesleyan University, offer the morning-after pills through their on-campus pharmacies or health centers. But access to some of those facilities can be limited, especially on weekends.
In 2019, Yale University dropped plans to install a “wellness-to-go” vending machine for the purchase of emergency contraceptives and other items after learning that it was not allowed under state law, the Associated Press reported.
“If you go to buy Plan B, it’s awkward because you have to go up to the pharmacist and ask them to unlock the box. It’s a whole thing,” said Alexis Rosenthal, a junior at UConn. “It would be nice [to have] a place where you can go buy it without having to speak to someone. Also, if anyone is around you, you know they are there for the same reason, which is helpful.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 25% of women aged 22–49 have used emergency contraception.
To sell OTC drugs in Connecticut, a vendor must obtain a permit from the state Commission of Pharmacy. A regulation in place bans the sale of those medications in vending machines.
Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, a Democrat from West Hartford, wants women of all ages to have access to proper and safe reproductive care.
“Women should have control over their own reproductive rights. I hope we can come to a place where reproductive health is viewed as health care. I think the greater the access, the better,” said Gilchrest, acting co-chair of the Reproductive Rights Caucus.
Gilchrest said she sees no immediate change to the vending machine restriction. Currently, the Reproductive Rights Caucus is working to ensure Connecticut women of all ages have access to reproductive care.
Gilchrest pointed to the state’s new reproductive hotline and website as a resource for information and assistance.
Colleen Lucey, a junior at the University of Connecticut, writes about the most pressing health, wellness and safety issues affecting people ages 18-40. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.