Advocates: Ease of access to contraception could lower accidental pregnancies

The Indiana Department of Health 2022 Pregnancy Termination Report showed March as the month when the most abortions were performed. (Adobe Stock)

Vending machines commonly found in workplace break rooms generally contain soft drinks or snacks but one machine in Indianapolis dispenses unconventional items at the turn of a knob.

The Plan B morning-after pill, pregnancy tests and condoms are displayed in a clear glass case inside a colorful blue and orange dispenser. The items provide easy access to protection against an unwanted pregnancy and are free of charge.

Melissa Gruver, organizing director of the feminist organization Indiana Task FORCE, said it operates like a traditional vending machine.

"You just push whenever you want and it falls down, and you reach your hand through the little door and you pull it out, take it with you," Gruver explained.

A 2022 Indiana Department of Health Termination Report indicated 9,600 pregnancies were aborted, with Marion County recording the highest number of unwanted pregnancies. The report also noted the average age of a woman in Indiana who sought an abortion was 27, and 67% of all terminated pregnancies occurred within four to eight weeks of conception.

The state's contentious near-total abortion ban, which was upheld by the Indiana Supreme Court last year, has stoked fears lawmakers may begin restricting a woman's choice of birth control.

Indiana Task FORCE and reproductive health groups All-Options and the Midwest Access Coalition want the emergency contraceptive vending machine to serve as a gathering spot for community conversations on reproductive rights and sexual health.

"We've long been organizing our communities to bring about reproductive justice, which we didn't have before and we definitely don't have it now," Gruver pointed out. "But what we know to be true is that there are more of us that want access to reproductive care than those that try to stop it. We're excited to continue to work to meet this need now, and to organize for a better community."

Gruver hopes to have one dispenser in every Indiana region in the future to add to the single machine currently in an eastside Indianapolis grocery store. She added some universities in the state already have vending machines offering similar contraception products but users have to purchase the items.

This story is based on original reporting by Mary Claire Molloy for Mirror Indy.

By Terri Dee, Anchor/Producer

Monday, April 15, 2024