Health and Beauty

Sunshine Laundromat put Plan B in a vending machine as a joke, but it’s no laughing matter

This is actually a very seriously smart plan. Credit: DNAinfo
This is actually a very seriously smart plan. Credit: DNAinfo

Ever since they added a bar to their space to cater to the drinking populace of North Brooklyn, Greenpoint’s Sunshine Laundromat and Pinball has been making headlines almost weekly. It’s a practical date spot! It’s a uniquely vintage mainstay in a changing neighborhood! It’s one of the main reasons Chris Gethard didn’t move to LA! The laundromat made the news again this morning, when DNAinfo found that owner Pete Rose put Plan B and pregnancy tests in their vending machines, alongside the candy bars.

Apparently, Rose intended “purely for entertainment purposes.” He was browsing the aisles of CVS when, as he recalled to DNAinfo, “I saw [the PlanB] and thought, ‘That doesn’t belong in a vending machine,’ and so I bought some.”

Color me humorless, but I don’t get the joke. In fact, I think it’s a seriously great idea. There are tampon and pad dispensers in most public restrooms in America, and smart schools in NYC are going so far as to offer them for free to students. But bleeding into your underwear isn’t nearly as terrible (or difficult to resolve, I mean, it’s called toilet paper) as an unplanned pregnancy. So why shouldn’t we be able to buy Plan B in vending machines?

DNAinfo spoke to Rose about his decision to stock the Plan B ($35) and pregnancy tests ($10) with the Mounds and Snickers bars. He told them that “it’s not to make a political statement,” and that he just wanted “random items for fun.”


The fact that Schumer can make fun of this is a sign that it's still a problem. via Comedy Central
The fact that Schumer can make fun of this is a sign that it’s still a problem. via Comedy Central

I don’t know how to say this any other way than in all caps, so forgive me. But PLAN B ISN’T FUN. And women’s reproductive rights cannot possibly be “random” or apolitical, especially not with bills passing to defund Planned Parenthood and rape culture deniers getting air time on local news stations.

We’re still tolerating crap justifications for the egregious cost of the pill. As recently as 2013, an article titled “Plan B is Not a Cure-All” was published in The New York Times. As if women might start taking it like a multi-vitamin!

Meanwhile, condoms are sold in vending machines without a second thought, not to mention freely available citywide here in New York, because male sexuality is constantly enabled and encouraged.

I’m glad that Rose’s “joke” has an audience, if only because a few women will actually get to buy the discounted Plan B from his machine when they need it (it costs $50 at most stores in America). But it’s annoying that he wrote it off as “random fun” for the people paying attention, especially in light of this:

And the law backs him up. According to FDA spokeswoman Andrea Fischer, “there is no provision in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act that prohibits the sale of over-the-counter drug preparations in vending machines or in places other than drug stores.”

In that case, why shouldn’t this become a real phenomenon in places other than Sunshine? Any building with a vending machine (office, school, commercial venue) could easily make a profit just by selling Plan B judgment-free in their vending machines. Even if it were the same price as at the drugstore, it would save women the humiliation of having to ask a drugstore clerk to remove it from a glass case, or fighting with a conservatively-minded pharmacist in another state. It is a political statement, and it’s one that far more independent businesses like Sunshine Laundromat should be making.

Rose told DNAinfo that has no plans to restock the supply of Plan B once the boxes of it are purchased from his machine. My only question is: why not? Bars can and should be political spaces, if only because they can wield unique political power by rallying the community of barfies who frequent them. As we observed in Louis C.K.’s Horace and Pete, there’s something about a room full of no-nonsense boozing that just helps people see the humanity in each other. And that’s exactly what we need when dealing with women’s reproductive freedom.

Follow Sam: @ahoysamantha

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