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  • Brenda Gonzalez

BU students push back against national trends that have restricted reproductive freedom

The emergency contraceptive vending machine located in Boston University’s George Sherman Union was vandalized on October 31, according to Students For Reproductive Freedom.

SRF, an “advocacy group for intersectional reproductive justice,” installed the Plan B vending machine in March after five years of planning, with the cost of one Plan B pill at $7.25.

On October 18, SRF had a relaunch party with even more products available, such as at-home STI testing kits, condoms, and free packs of emergency contraceptive pills.

The organization’s Co-President, Mackenzie Pike, heard about the incident through the SRF’s Executive Board group chat.

“It's really disheartening that somebody would destroy a community resource,” said Pike. “I was concerned that it could have been an act of hate.”

According to Pike, the machine had been experiencing technical difficulties for a week, sometimes taking money without dispensing the products. Some people went to purchase Plan B and the machine was not working. She believes this is the reason the machine was vandalized.

Since then, the machine is still not completely functional and only takes cash. Due to packaging issues, the price of one pill has risen to $10.

Pike and the other group leaders have been contacting BU’s vending service to troubleshoot the issues. But according to Pike, BU vending has not responded to their requests.

Locally, this is a problem for individuals who directly use this machine often.

“It makes every aspect of life more difficult for people,” said Pike. “We've had so many people DMing us asking about how they can get Plan B…the information was not really accessible.”

High demand for the Plan B pill has caused retailers such as Amazon, CVS, and Walgreens to limit purchases during the onset of the overturning of Roe V Wade in June.

The average cost for emergency contraceptives without insurance in Massachusetts is $50. SRF’s machine is currently only $10.

Areas of concern are not only about the price and availability of emergency contraceptives but also about the legality of it. This is not of legal concern in Massachusetts, but would be hard to replicate on other campuses across america due to differing laws.

Luis Rosalas, SRF’s contraceptive machine manager, recalls feelings of shock and worry when hearing the incident.

“It felt personal,” said Rosalas. “We were also concerned about how long is this going to delay [access].”

Just as abortion laws differ by state, so does the availability of emergency contraceptives.

And in independent drugstores, the product is usually in a locked box behind the pharmacy counter, according to NPR.

This is an intimidation factor that scares off buyers and makes the Plan B machine appealing.

“it creates a sort of stigma,” said Rosalas. “It seems like [retailers] are trying to solve an issue that isn't the root of the problem.”

The overturning of Roe v. Wade opens up the floodgates for individual states to start dismantling other rights. Liberties that have previously been protected under the implied right to privacy, codified through the due process clause in the fifth and 14th amendments, are now in jeopardy.

The 14th Amendment protects US citizens’ the right to privacy under the Due Process clause this is being weakened over the current precedent while the right to religious freedom is being strengthened.

Misinformation is dominating the coversation around contraceptives and abortion.

Idaho State Rep. Brent Crane said he would “probably” agree to hear legislation that proposes to ban the emergency contraception Plan B, grouping it in with abortion pills and IUDs. Crane referred to all three as an “abortifacient. ”

Texas governor Greg Abbott aims to create ”a culture of life and [protect] the unborn from the ravages of abortion,” according to his official website.

“That contravenes the intent that is in our constitution,” said Abott in response to church shut-downs during the pandemic in July of 2021.

In May of 2017, Abbott signed the Sermon Safeguard Bill that protects religious leaders from being forced to testify concerning their sermons.

Passed the Texas Heartbeat Bill, which influenced Idaho to introduce one of its own. The Texas law’s main implication is that it allows ordinary individuals to enforce the law rather than the state.

This leaves citizens in a state of disjunction, with new bills being signed that don’t reflect their necessity for basic reproductive health care.

Misinformation at the hands of those who are supposed to represent the majority is constructing a narrative that doesn’t match up. Nine states have implemented restrictions on emergency contraception. Seven of these states, including Arizona, Illinois, and Georgia, have laws allowing pharmacists to refuse to dispense emergency contraception pills on the basis of moral or religious objections.

Arkansas and North Carolina exclude emergency contraception from their contraceptive coverage mandate.

In Texas, emergency contraception is excluded from the coverage in the state's family planning program.

Nationally, SRF’s contraceptive machine fits uniquely into this conversation. Providing services that we once relied on our government to provide for us. SRF is filling in this gap.

BU’s machine has inspired surrounding colleges such as Northeastern to install machines of their own.

Contraceptive machines are adding to the conversation of the importance of access. The more universities recognize the needs of their students, the more change will happening in our climate of political uncertainty.

Since the incident, SRF has made it their mission to continue to inform and bring students together by hosting various events such as a contraceptive talk with an OBGYN and discussions on reproductive legislation.

“We're still learning, and we're trying to teach and learn at the same time,” said Rosalas

I know this machine is really important for survivors of SA on campus as well. Its On Us is underneath CGSA so kind of a sister club to SRF, could reach out to them for a comment about how the machine being vandalized presents an issue, or could get a statement on how the machine is important to their work


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