Emergency contraception, also known as the “morning-after” pill, has long been a source of controversy and debate. Recently, it has become increasingly accessible, with some colleges opting to provide it in vending machines placed on campus.

Emergency contraception pills prevent ovulation and, therefore, prevent pregnancy from ever happening.

The “morning-after” pills that are available in college vending machines including both branded and generic products – are progestin-only pills. Progestin-only pills do not require a prescription to use and they do not contain estrogen or the hormone that is linked to an increased risk for dangerous blood clots. (Read more here about the blood clot risks associated with estrogen and combined hormonal contraception options that contain estrogen.)

According to the American Society for Emergency Contraception, there are currently 39 universities in 17 states that have these vending machines on campus and there are at least 20 additional states considering the installation of them.

Diverse Opinions

The availability of emergency contraception in vending machines on college campuses has spurred both support and criticism, shedding light on the complexities surrounding this issue, for example:

  • Proponents stress that emergency contraception in vending machines optimizes convenience and access. College students lead busy lives, balancing academics, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, and social engagements. Coupled with the sensitive nature of purchasing such forms of contraception, students may find it difficult and uncomfortable to obtain it in traditional settings like pharmacies or clinics. Placing vending machines strategically on campus alleviates this discomfort and ensures students have access at any time, day or night.
  • Critics express concerns regarding the decreased medical supervision and important healthcare counseling that may accompany emergency contraception obtained from vending machines on college campuses. They stress that without the opportunity for healthcare professionals to offer guidance and share information, students may receive insufficient education on purpose, dosage, side effects, and potential interactions. This lack of health professional advice could compromise students’ health and well-being.
  • Vending machines with emergency contraception address time sensitivity. Swift action is crucial in cases of unprotected sex or contraceptive errors/failure. Waiting for a pharmacy or clinic to open can delay access to emergency contraception, reducing its effectiveness. College vending machines counter this problem by providing immediate availability.
  • Concerns also are raised about potential misuse or abuse of this form of contraception without proper regulations. Critics are concerned that, without oversight, some individuals may use or depend on emergency contraception as a regular form of birth control, disregarding the potential health risks associated with frequent and excessive use.


Get the Information You Need to Make an Informed Choice

The availability of emergency contraception in vending machines on college campuses is an issue that elicits a spectrum of opinions. Striking a balance between accessibility and the involvement of healthcare professionals is crucial to ensure responsible and informed decision-making regarding sexual health on college campuses.

Talk to your healthcare professional about any questions you might have about your contraception needs, and ask if there is any guidance you need or if there are side effects that could be important for you to be informed about.

Learn more about the different types of emergency contraception by visiting the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office on Women’s Health here.

To read more about contraception decision-making, click here.