A new initiative by Penn Reproductive Justice is offering and delivering free emergency contraception kits to students living on campus.
The initiative — the Confidential Emergency Contraception Distribution Project — will provide kits upon request that include one Plan B, an information sheet about how to use Plan B, and packets of lubricant and condoms for students, according to College junior Antoilyn Nguyen, the lead for PRJ’s Community Engagement Committee.
College junior Pao Naughton, a lead organizer for PRJ, told The Daily Pennsylvanian that the emergency contraception initiative is an important step in increasing accessibility to reproductive health resources on campus. She said that while Plan B can be accessed through Student Health and Counseling or by buying it at a pharmacy, students should be offered a more accessible and affordable way to get Plan B.
“We are trying to implement all of the possible measures in which students will feel comfortable to request the Plan B and use it to their benefit,” Nguyen said.
Naughton sees the free Plan B distribution as a step in the right direction for reproductive justice, as many students may be uncomfortable visiting Penn’s medical care offices and are often unable to pay for Plan B.
“To access emergency contraception at a local pharmacy is usually around $50.00 … which is a financial burden … and this [service] is free, which is so great,” Naughton said. “It's hard to sometimes get to CVS even if you can afford it, or go to [Student Health and Counseling], so I think that's why we decided to make it this delivery service,” Naughton said.
Since Plan B is most effective if taken within 72 hours of exposure, the efficiency and time frame for taking Plan B is important, according to Naughton. The delivery from PRJ members is completed within 24 hours with drop-off options. Students are asked to fill out an anonymous Google Form, which is connected to an anonymous phone number that PRJ members will periodically check.
“Some of the feedback we heard was that it was very easy, it was quick, it was anonymous, and it provided a necessity that’s normally very expensive,” Naughton said.
Since its launch in mid-November, the program has had 19 deliveries. PRJ hopes to expand its efforts to deliver Plan B to all those who need it beyond on-campus dorms in the future.
“We hope that more students will learn about this program and know that we are a resource for them whenever they need it,” Nguyen said. “We’re also planning on doing rounds of flyering on campus so that more students can learn about this initiative.”
The PRJ initiative has been done in conjunction with the Undergraduate Assembly, and Penn Residential Services periodically stocked all University residential buildings with menstrual products.
College junior Ria Ellendula has been working on the initiative to make menstrual products widely accessible on campus as a member of PRJ’s Education Committee and as the Speaker of the Undergraduate Assembly.
Ellendula spearheaded the pilot program at the beginning of March 2023, which intended to understand student response and engagement with free menstrual products in dorms, the initiative's target being Hill College House.
“We tested usage by collecting data on how many products were taken and administering a survey,” Ellendula said. “Student usage and response largely showed that this was an issue that alleviated a burden for students and many students expressed support for an expansion of the program.”
As of this semester, menstrual products are being offered in bathrooms in the Quad, Kings Court English College House, Stouffer College House, Hill, and the lobby of all the other dorms.
The initiative is looking forward to “collaborating with [Wellness at Penn] and other stakeholders to see how the program can be expanded to the campus level, including academic and non-residential spaces that are a part of any of the 12 schools that Penn oversees,” Ellendula said.
Other PRJ club activities include fundraisers for nationally recognized reproductive justice groups, speaker events about gender and gender inclusivity, period item packing events, and distribution of sexual health-related products such as contraceptives.
“Reproductive justice is conflated with reproductive rights. But there is a fundamental difference. Reproductive justice was founded by a group of Black women organizers in the mid-20th century and is especially attuned to how people’s [identities] may impact the way in which someone’s able to access rights,” Naughton said.