First Morning-After Pill Vending Machines in CUNY System Installed at John Jay

The two new vending machines, which will carry emergency contraceptive pills for $10, are the first in New York state’s public university system.

| 01 Dec 2023 | 01:53

City University of New York’s John Jay College is the first public higher education institution in New York state to have an emergency contraceptive vending machine on its campus.

The vending machines, installed in two different locations on campus, will carry the AfterPill, which when taken correctly within 72 hours of unprotected sex, is 75 percent to 85 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, according to Planned Parenthood.

Like the more well-known Plan B One-Step pill, AfterPill is an over-the-counter, single-dose pill that contains 1.5 milligrams of levonorgestrel, a hormonal medication. It can lower the chances of pregnancy for up to 120 hours after unprotected sex, though the sooner it is taken, the more effective it is. However, it may not work for those who weigh over 165 pounds.

Purchased out of pocket at the pharmacy, the morning-after pill can cost up to $50. The cost of the AfterPill at John Jay is $10, apparently subsidized by the college’s Student Activities Association, according to the college’s announcement.

In addition to John Jay, Columbia University, Barnard University, and New York University also have vending machines that carry emergency contraceptive pills, according to the American Society for Emergency Contraception, which keeps track of United States college and university campuses with the option available.

“Putting emergency contraception in vending machines puts birth control within reach for so many students. We are hopeful that colleges across New York will recognize the potential to positively impact their student’s lives through this cost-effective yet innovative measure,” said Rochelle Rodney, Director of Advocacy at the New York Birth Control Access Project, which partnered with John Jay to implement the vending machines. “Affordable, convenient access to birth control is a Reproductive Justice issue. We are encouraged by the placement of the first emergency contraceptive vending machines on SUNY and CUNY campuses and it’s the culmination of a year of organizing work across the state.”

On its website, the college says that new machines were installed “in response to advocacy by John Jay students.” While students across the nation have called for emergency contraception machines on their own campuses for at least a decade, the fall of Roe v. Wade has increased the urgency of advocates’ demands. “These emergency contraception vending machines on campus support responsible choices and empower young people to make decisions about their reproductive health,” said Odalisa Santos, a John Jay alumnus and student advocate, in the announcement.

Proponents of the vending machines have described them as a more discreet, accessible, and affordable means to obtaining a vital sexual health resource at any time. While campus student health centers often provide emergency contraceptives, obtaining them through that route can be more expensive, less anonymous, and limited by business days and hours.

In February, New York State Senator Lea Webb and Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas introduced legislation that would require all SUNY and CUNY institutions to have at least one emergency contraceptive vending machine available on their campuses. They are currently being discussed in the Senate and Assembly higher education committees.