I am shocked that a vending machine selling Plan B is available at Shippensburg University’s health center. And one of the main reasons of placing it there? Because a survey of the student body found that many of them thought it would be good to have.
People tend to forget that this is a medication, and therefore, it should be treated with the same respect that all medications deserve. With Plan B, there needs to be proper indication, timing and the ability by the consumer to ask a pharmacist any questions regarding its safety.
Putting a couple of dollars into a machine and receiving this medication so easily is unethical and crazy to me. Plan B is an emergency contraceptive and contains high levels of progestins that prevent pregnancy – but it’s not as effective as regular birth control. I cringe when I think about the possibility of young women on this campus getting the wrong idea and thinking they can use Plan B as a regular method of contraception.
Progestins have been known to have side effects. The most common ones include mid-cycle spotting, irregular bleeding, hives, swelling of the face and lips – and for some, even nausea and diarrhea. And there’s also the potential for serious issues to arise if a young woman was to use Plan B as her main method of contraception without proper medical follow-up, which could lead them to miss symptoms of ectopic pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases.
Plan B is available for women older than 17 without a prescription. But how is it possible to monitor the automatic dispensing of this Plan B to younger girls? I thought the FDA was going to look at these dispensing machines more carefully before approving them, and I certainly have not seen any evidence that they have been significantly studied.
So again, I have come to the conclusion that this is highly irresponsible. This argument that Plan B needs to be more readily available on campus makes it sound like we don’t have 24-hour pharmacies all over this country. Just take a look outside. I’m sure you’ll find a Walgreens, CVS or Walmart very close to you. And at least there, you can speak to a pharmacist about how to use the medication.
When it comes to emergency contraception, girls need to think of it as just that – an emergency. Don’t make Plan B your Plan A.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.