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University offering morning after pill in health center vending machine

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow

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(Image from planbonestep.com)

Shippensburg University is coming under fire today after local television affiliate WTAE reported that the university has begun selling the Plan B emergency contraception pill inside one of its student vending machines.

"This is a legal medication," university spokesman Peter Gigliotti told Yahoo News. "You can go into any pharmacy and purchase it legally if you are 17 or older."

Gigliotti also was quick to counter a falsely reported element of the story, noting that the pill will only be offered in one vending machine inside the university's health center.

"It's only available to full-time students who must show multiple forms of identification," Gigliotti said. "It's not just available to anyone walking in off the street."

Even though the FDA has in fact approved the pill for over-the-counter use to anyone 17-years-old and up,  the decision has nonetheless created a backlash among those who oppose abortion rights. While the Plan B pill is described as emergency contraception, many social conservatives nonetheless view it as a possible abortifacient, due to the drug's ability, in cases where an egg has already become fertilized, of preventing it from attaching to the uterus. National Right to Life President Carol Tobias tells Yahoo News that there are better ways for the university to look out for the health of its students. "It would be a much more productive use of funds if universities would partner with local pregnancy resource centers where students can get real help if they need it," Tobias said.

Earlier reports inaccurately claimed that the university was offering the pill in all of its student vending machines, which only fueled the outcry.

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An official statement from Dr. Roger L. Surr, vice president of student affairs, reads in part: "We are not the first one to make Plan B available so this is not unique to us or to public higher education. This decision was also made in consultation with our medical staff. Plan B is an over-the-counter medication for individuals 17 years old or older and, according to our records, all of our current full-time students are 17 or older. Any student who wants to discuss Plan B with a health care provider may do so at any time. In addition, medical information is provided with the Plan B for purchasers to read before its use."

The Plan B One-Step Home pill, also known as the morning after pill, reduces the chance of pregnancy by up to 89 percent if taken within 24 hours. The manufacturer's website notes that it can be taken up 72 hours after sexual intercourse but states that "it is not the abortion pill and it isn't a substitute for routine birth control."

Dr. Serr told WTAE that the decision was made after overwhelming student support. "We had some conversations with them and did a survey of the student body and we got an 85 percent response rate that the students supported Plan B in the House Center."

In addition, Serr said the university does not make any additional revenue from the sales, charging students the same $25 they pay for a single dose.

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