On September 18th CMC students received an email glorifying a new vending machine in Pomona’s Walker Hall Lounge. The machine, which is accessible to students from all the 5Cs, is subtly located on the second floor of the lounge. While the machine does offer innocuous items such as Neosporin and aspirin, it also features a multitude of sexual health products, ranging from condoms and KY jelly to male vibrators. Most notably, students now have 24/7 access to the form of birth control known as Plan B, or the morning after pill.
5C students have long been able to purchase Plan B from the Student Health Center without having to schedule an appointment beforehand. However, college vending machines that dispense the morning after pill are a novel concept. Just over a year ago in January of 2013, the FDA permitted Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania to continue offering Plan B in vending machines on campus. Pomona College is very likely one of the few colleges in the country to offer this type of resource to students.
The Claremont Colleges are undoubtedly a melting pot for socially liberal causes. Last spring, Pitzer College Senate seriously debated adopting a resolution to permit public nudity on campus. This fall CMC shed its image as a LGBT “pariah” and now offers a gender-neutral housing option for students. The Queer Resource Center recently sponsored a “Kink 101 Workshop” that was held on September 27th. Suffice it to say that Pomona’s recent decision to institute a Plan B vending machine comes as no big surprise.
As a socially conservative student, I fundamentally disagree with all of the aforementioned policy changes, for both moral and religious reasons. However, this does not necessarily mean that I would blindly impose my personal beliefs on others and call for the abolition of these resources and events. I value individual liberty, and believe people should have the autonomy to govern their own lifestyles. However, I do take issue with CMC’s embrace of this latest liberal crusade.
The email from CMC’s Dean of Students Office introducing the vending machine was filled with bias. Whether it was the opening line of “I am pleased to announce another new resource available to you!” or the proclamation that “Pomona College has graciously opened up this resource to students from all of the colleges,” it was implicitly evident where DOS stood on the issue.
What was perhaps even more surprising was how the email casually included Plan B in the list of products available in the new vending machine. It was as if DOS was completely oblivious to the fact that offering products such as Plan B and vibrators was a drastic change in policy for any college.
The administration’s nonchalant introduction of the new Plan B vending machine is indicative of a larger problem that plagues college campuses: the voice of prudence and reason is too often compromised at the expense of the latest liberal social experiment. We should have a rigorous, meaningful discussion regarding such a drastic change in policy before it is prematurely declared to be a positive force on campus.
When a female makes the decision to use Plan B, she accepts the possibility that she is preventing a fertilized egg from being implanted on the uterine wall. Individuals who believe life begins at conception equate this to abortion, a viewpoint that was recently legitimized by the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case.
The permanent and irreversible nature of using Plan B affords no room for regret. This means that students who view Plan B as a form of abortion (or eventually come to hold this view), yet decide to use it anyway, may potentially subject themselves to emotional distress in the future. This is not an unfathomable scenario, as one’s life-outlook is often radically different at age forty as opposed to age twenty.
Using Plan B also carries serious health considerations. The morning after pill is not a typical over-the-counter medication like Advil or Tylenol. It is a highly concentrated dose of hormones that can significantly alter a female’s menstrual cycle. Dr. David Grimes, who spoke before an FDA advisory committee in 2003, said that, “Repeated use of EC wreaks havoc on a woman’s cycle.”
The 24/7 access afforded by a vending machine is a dangerous proposition. The resulting effect is that students will no longer be bound by the time constraints of having to obtain Plan B from the Student Health Center or a local pharmacy. Assuming that most sexual activity occurs at night, students are usually forced to at least wait until the next morning to obtain and subsequently use Plan B. The instant accessibility of the vending machine will decrease the likelihood that students will consider the aforementioned consequences of using emergency contraception.
Regardless of whether you believe Plan B is morally permissible, the decision to use the morning after pill should not be made lightly. This is why a vending machine that dispenses Plan B is a disservice to students. It inherently trivializes what should be a very serious decision.
CMC’s decision to support Pomona’s new Plan B vending machine is more than just the college taking a firm stance on a highly divisive issue. CMC is compromising its students’ ability to make safe, informed choices regarding a serious health issue. But in the midst of all the kink workshops, calls for public nudity, and efforts to nullify gender classification, who has time to notice?