The Birds and the Plan Bs, by Tony Perkins

The Power to Be Human, by Stacy A. Trasancos
December 18, 2018
The Food and Drug Administration’s Invisible Victims, by Walter E. Williams
December 19, 2018

By Tony Perkins, Family Research Council, December 17, 2018

At some new college vending machines, you can get a lot more than snacks! On a growing number of campuses, food is just one thing you can buy. Emergency contraception is the other.

They call it “wellness to go,” but Yale’s unconventional pharmacy is a lot less about wellness than you’d think. Like Columbia, Stanford, Dartmouth, the University of California, Miami of Ohio, and so many others, a vending machine full of drugs is supposed to make the pills like Plan B more accessible. “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 CVS, especially students from the new colleges,” Ileana Valdez, the student representative who led the campaign said.

This way, she argues, buying the morning-after pill is a less “humiliating process.” But it’s also a riskier one. Back when the FDA made Plan B available over-the-counter, people on both sides of the aisle were surprised. Even now, women need a prescription for birth control. But a drug with double the hormones, they can buy from a nearby snack machine. That’s government logic for you. Even President Obama seemed concerned that stores would stock it next to the “bubble gum and batteries.” “As the father of two daughters,” he said back in 2011, “I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine.”

Fast-forward seven years, and we’re selling a drug with twice the potency of regular birth control like a bag of Cheetos! For $15, students can slip into a campus building without ever talking to a doctor. And it’s not just the side effects that parents should be worried about. These machines make it possible for girls to bypass the health screening they should get as sexually active students. That means they aren’t under a doctor’s supervision, they aren’t being tested for STDs, and they can’t get basic guidance about what’s healthy and what isn’t.

And unfortunately, this argument of “convenience” is leading to a much bigger problem where other drugs like RU-486 are concerned. In some states, women are even aborting their children by a remote-type vending machine. This same mentality is leading to a rise in telemed abortions, where pregnant moms can video-conference with doctors instead of meeting them face-to-face. After talking to the patient, the doctor can tap a button on the computer to open a special drawer at the other location that’ll dispense the chemical abortion drug, RU-486. Unlike Plan B, which has its own set of issues, these drugs are extremely dangerous. There’s no clinic visit, no monitoring, or follow-up. If a woman has complications — and many do — they’re on their own.

The last thing we should be encouraging as a culture is even less accountability when it comes to sex. As the National Coalition of STD Directors will tell you, “We are in the midst of an absolute STD public health crisis in this country.” Some school officials will say that if a girl has access to these pills then she’s less likely to get pregnant. Well, maybe. But she’ll also be more likely to have unprotected sex. And the last time anyone checked, there wasn’t a retroactive cure for that.

“Although… no prescription is needed, we would always prefer that students talk with medical or counseling practitioners about preventing unwanted pregnancy,” said an official from George Mason University. She’s right. It’s time for more colleges to look at the bigger picture and do what they can to keep Plan B from becoming plan A.

Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.