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PPGen Students Advocate for Sexual Wellness Vending Machines at Wayne State University

Clara Keller

With sexual and reproductive health care under constant attack, students at college campuses are fighting back to improve access to essentials like emergency contraception, condoms, dental dams, and pregnancy tests for their fellow students. After a long campaign by Wayne State students, administrators agreed to install sexual wellness machines in the fall, so we sat down with recent Wayne State University graduate Clara Keller to celebrate their hard work and learn about the initiative. 

Clara’s journey as a reproductive freedom advocate started in January 2022 when she began organizing Students for Reproductive Justice, the first undergraduate sexual health student organization at Wayne State.

“The reproductive justice community was hearing that Roe was going to be overturned, and I was also a part of the Detroit Period Project,” Clara said, “and we wanted something more tailored to students, so we branched off and created Students for Reproductive Justice.”

After the Dobbs ruling in June 2022 that overturned the federal right to abortion under Roe v. Wade, Clara and her fellow student advocates joined forces with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan to collect petition signatures and canvass in support of Proposal 3, the Reproductive Freedom for All ballot initiative that passed with overwhelming support. Soon after, the Wayne State University Planned Parenthood Generation Action (PPGen) chapter was formed. 

In August 2023, PPGen students from across Michigan gathered at the annual conference in Lansing to collaborate on student-led initiatives, including advocating to bring emergency contraception and other sexual health necessities to vending machines on their campuses.

“They were targeting Wayne State, MSU, and U of M because those were the three easiest campuses to start out because of student population,” said Clara.

PPGen student advocates and PPAM staff pose for a photo at the annual PPGen Conference in Lansing

While each institution’s path to success is different, Wayne State student advocates encountered unique challenges due to the large number of commuters who are often less engaged with the student population and university culture.

“Students didn’t even know they could get Plan B at all on campus,” said Clara, let alone that it could cost up to $100 at the campus health center. “If the students don’t even know, then the administration is not going to go forward with any of it.

“The other obstacle was convincing the university that this was important because Michigan is supposed to be a safe haven for reproductive justice, even though it’s really not.They always think you can just go in person or go to a CVS, but if you don’t have a car or don’t have $65 to spend on Plan B, this is your only option.” 

Clara’s PPGen chapter used research from MSU and U of M combined with their own experiences at the campus health center to make their case to university administration.

“We acted like we needed Plan B and then went there and went through the process. A lot of times, they scheduled appointments outside of the 72-hour time range of Plan B, so at that point, it’s not even worth it,” Clara said. “The nurse practitioner that spoke to me said, ‘I don’t even know if Plan B is here’” 

All of their hard work paid off when Clara and her fellow student advocates gained the support of the Student Senate, and later, university administrators. As early as the fall semester, at least two sexual wellness machines will be installed on the main campus at Wayne State University, with the possibility of a third machine located at the medical school. These machines will be stocked with emergency contraception, condoms, dental dams, pregnancy tests, and other common sexual health essentials, providing a vital access point for students who either can’t or do not feel comfortable visiting the campus health center. 

“We're also restructuring the sexual health programs at the campus health center to make it more sexual health friendly, including posters with birth control and automatically bringing up sexual assault or non-consensual sex,” Clara said, so clinicians will proactively offer birth control and emergency contraception as a standard practice, thus taking the onus off students to disclose a traumatic experience to receive those vital resources. 

As part of her senior thesis, Clara created an interactive website with a step-by-step guide to getting sexual wellness vending machines on campus.

“It's interactive in the way that if you have new strategies from your school that you've tried that have or haven’t worked, you can submit to me a response and then I will make a new page saying, for example, Wayne State University said this about these vending machines, or this strategy worked,” Clara said. “If Wayne State has 20,000 kids, that is a totally different scenario than Michigan State, which has 65,000.” She also recommends checking out to anyone looking to start a campaign on their campus. 

Clara hopes the machines will give students a more accessible option and reduce the stigma surrounding emergency contraception and sexual wellness. 

“I feel like it brings a more positive environment because students are walking by it every day and seeing the pregnancy tests and the other items. So now you feel more accustomed to it, so it's in and of itself, breaking down stigma,” she said.

With Clara having completed her degree, she leaves an incredible legacy at Wayne State that will improve the health and wellness of students for years to come. Her advice for other young advocates frustrated by the attacks on reproductive freedom: “You have to know why you're doing it. Know why you started your advocacy and organizing work in the first place, so when you feel frustrated and stuck, you can go back to why you started.”


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