Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.
Reproductive healthcare has been a hot-button issue for some time now. We’ve seen rallies to support Planned Parenthood and 12-foot anti-abortion displays. While the pro-choice and anti-abortion debates have been the center of attention, the issue is bigger than that. Young people who need access to reproductive health options are finding it can be difficult to obtain. In the case of university students, the institutions that support them have a responsibility to ensure access to affordable and easily attainable healthcare options.
While healthcare costs are at historic highs and Vice President Mike Pence is continuing his personal battle to defund Planned Parenthood, the availability of contraceptives and other reproductive health options is suffering. Cue up UC Davis with a novel approach to the issue; the California college has recently installed what they call a “Wellness To Go” machine. The machine is no replacement for a visit to the doctor’s office, but it is providing students with access to over-the-counter (OTC) medical products in a discrete and affordable way. The machine offers condoms, pregnancy tests and even Plan B (or “morning after” pills) among other OTC health and hygiene products. The machine is a means of giving students more control over and privacy regarding their well-being.
Of course, this has caused a stir. Some people have stated that providing Plan B medication in this fashion is encouraging irresponsible sexual behavior, even though the medication has been available without a prescription since 2013. Furthermore, the machine is providing the medication for $10 to $20 less than it costs at a drug store. In a time when the federal government is working to allow states to defund the group that provides 80 percent of its patients with care to prevent unintended pregnancy, it’s time for more universities to begin offering options like this.
I know it’s still going to be a controversial subject, but universities are supposed to be a hub for progressive thoughts and actions. I’m not talking about political progressiveness here, but about setting an example for how we, as a society, are going to progress from where we are currently. Free-flowing ideas means the rights and freedoms of all people must be acknowledged and ensured in every way possible. While the autonomy of a woman’s body is perceptibly on the chopping block, the idea of the Wellness Machine puts colleges in a position to make steps in assuring the women on their campus have greater access to some of the tools that help them practice the rights that women across the country have been marching to defend.
I honestly don’t care if a person believes abortion—or, more specifically, Plan B—is right, wrong, justifiable or any other descriptor you can attach. The point here is that the options and access provided by these machines are perfectly legal and well within the rights of every student here to have. To install one here at CSU could make great strides in improving the student population’s access to health care.
There’s one more thing this machine provides that I consider extremely important: conversation. While reproductive health and body autonomy may be uncomfortable topics for some, even rage-inducing for others, we must foster an open discourse for any real social progress to be made. So, if you find yourself faced with the prospect of something similar appearing on the CSU campus, please keep an open mind. Nobody can force you to use it, just like nobody should be able to tell young women they cannot.
Tyler Weston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.