Students at George Washington University are now able to obtain emergency contraception from a vending machine, thanks to a new initiative led by senior Aiza Saeed and sophomore Neharika Rao.
Like many other GWU students, Saeed and Rao were frustrated with the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. So when the student president, Christian Zidouemba, started a conversation on how students could respond to the decision, there was one idea that stood out to them: a vending machine for Plan B, or “morning-after” pills.
Saeed and Rao, both involved in student government, started a survey of about 1,500 students. After the survey reflected an overwhelming amount of support for the initiative, Saeed and Rao worked with the school administration to bring the idea to life.
“A main goal that we had for this project was to help defeat stigma around contraception and reproductive rights,” Rao told USA Today.
While the school already provided emergency contraception through the student healthcare center, the operating hours were limited. The vending machine — which also dispenses tampons and Advil — is available to students late at night and on weekends. Located in the basement of the student center, the machine allows students to obtain the pill in a discreet location with no hassle.
“You could get Doritos and Plan B at the same time,” Saeed told The Washington Post.
Plus, the vending machine offers contraception at a more affordable price with no subsidization from the university or the student government. The pills are priced at $30, compared to $50 at most pharmacies.
Kelly Cleland, executive director for the American Society for Emergency Contraception, told USA Today that GWU is the 32nd university she knows of which has an emergency contraception vending machine.
“Efforts like this vending machine are a really important part of the solution in reducing barriers to reproductive health care access,” she said.
Although the initiative did receive some criticism from people who didn’t approve of the pills being easily available to anyone who needs them, the majority of the campus community has shown support by requesting more of the machines in dormitories.
Saeed and Rao have applied for grants that would hopefully lower the prices even more, as some students have called for more financial accessibility.
“Our focus now is making emergency contraception more affordable,” Saeed told USA Today. “There’s a lot of work still to do to make sure everybody has access to the emergency contraception they need.”