Ariana Howard ‘20
Next week, Planned Parenthood Generation Action (PPGA) will reveal the Sexual Wellness Vending Machine in the 900 Room in Union. The vending machine includes pregnancy tests, pads, tampons, ibuprofen, and discounted Plan B. It will be located outside the Union gym— a discreet yet accessible location. .
Although the primary focus of the project is to provide affordable and accessible Plan B (created by Davidson alumnus Dr. Trussel ‘71) , the machine also responds to the high demand for accessible wellness products on campus ever since the Union Station closed last year.
Grace Colley ‘21, one of the project managers for the Sexual Wellness Vending Machine, explains that the main goal of the project is “to provide better access to emergency contraceptive by making Plan B cheaper [and] available for purchase to all genders.” Currently, Plan B costs $50 at CVS and $25 at the Health Center. The vending machine will offer this product for only $16.
The machine is cash-only for now, but PPGA is “hoping to have credit card capabilities next semester,” Colley explains. Ultimately, PPGA hopes to break as many barriers between students and their health as possible.
Georgia Ringle, Davidson’s first official Health Educator, expressed that one of the best aspects of the machine is that “you can go in the middle of the night.” “This is great,” she explains, “because the sooner, the better.” According to WebMD, Plan B is 95% effective within 24 hours of unprotected sex and 89% effect within 72 hours. After 72 hours, the effectiveness greatly decreases.
Ringle has worked at Davidson College since the late 80s. Before Davidson, she lived in New Orleans, where HIV and AIDS were a major issue. Due to this exposure, Ringle discovered the importance of “being able to talk about sexuality and all the different kinds of sex people have.” For this reason, one of Ringle’s primary hopes for the machine is that it will help sexual wellness become less of a taboo topic on Davidson’s campus. She explains, “I think it will destigmatize the use of these products with it being in a machine. [It] might make people more willing to talk to someone.”
In the 1980s, Ringle had the same perspective on why making condoms accessible on campus, especially at night, was so crucial. She helped get medicine cabinets installed in campus bathrooms in order to put the condoms in a more discreet location. “That was a crowning achievement. I think it would be a good idea along with the condoms to put Plan B on the hall. Some day. The wellness vending machine is a good start,” says Ms. Ringle.
Additionally, information will be posted next to the vending machine about emergency contraception, particularly targeting those who are taking it because they were assaulted or for those who now might want to talk to someone about a longer-term birth control plan. Morgan McGrath ‘17, a Health Education Fellow at Davidson, also explains that there may even be information clarifying misconceptions about Plan B. McGrath stated, “I think the machine will help start some conversations or fuel the conversations happening right now on campus about reproductive health.”
Both McGrath and Ringle agree that this topic is one that Davidson students are interested in right now. “The fact that this is happening in one academic year is amazing work. I’m so impressed with the students. I think it speaks to just how dedicated the students are to promoting health and wellness and making it as accessible as possible,” said McGrath.
This passion can also be seen in SGA’s work to get menstrual products installed in campus bathrooms. Caroline Roddey ’20, an SGA senator, co-led the Menstrual Product Initiative in order to achieve this goal. Due to their initiative, “all of the dispensers in academic buildings and the Union provide free [sanitary products] dispensers,” explains Roddey. Roddey hopes that these “small changes will bring more accessibility to campus.”
While the focus is on feminine products, Roddey recognizes that transgender and non-binary students also use these items, such as menstrual hygiene products and emergency contraceptive. “These initiatives will reach beyond just female students,” she asserts. In fact, another major element of the vending machines is that people of all genders have access to it, unlike at the Health Center.
Ringle summed up, “It’s like these little seeds are planted to create change. What I love about Davidson is that it is a very fertile ground. If you plant the seeds, they will grow here.”