Catholic Colleges Up In Arms Over Contraception Ruling

The Obama Administration has refused to change a rule requiring that Catholic institutions provide health insurance coverage for contraception for employees at no additional cost, over the protests of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and both conservative and liberal Catholic organizations. As E.J. Dionne writes in Commonweal Magazine, the President has thrown “his progressive Catholic allies under the bus.”

The new rule is causing especial consternation on the campuses of Catholic colleges and universities, many of which refuse to prescribe or cover birth control for students on religious grounds. Surveys have found that 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women have used contraceptives, the same as in the general population.

Michael Galligan-Stierle, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, argues that students should know what policies to expect in attending a Catholic school. “No one would go to a Jewish barbecue and expect pork chops to be served,” he says to the New York Times.

Health Benefits of Birth Control

A July 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine about the positive health benefits from birth control makes it clear that contraception, far from being a “convenience,” is indeed medically necessary “to ensure women’s health and well-being.” Providing birth control can lower rates for pregnancy (half of which are unplanned in the US) and abortion (which about 4 out of 10 of those unplanned pregnancies end in). In addition, research shows that women with unintended pregnancies are “more likely to be depressed and to smoke, drink and delay or skip prenatal care, potentially harming fetuses and putting babies at increased risk of being born prematurely and having low birth weight.”

Catholic Universities’ Female Students Find Their Health Is Compromised By Restrictions

The official position of the Catholic church is that preventing conception by any artificial means — condoms, IUDs, birth control pills and sterilization — is morally wrong; hence Catholic institutions of higher learning continue to restrict students’ access to birth control.

In interviews with female students at two Jesuit universities, Fordham University in New York City and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., the New York Times reveals the potential medical and other problems due to the restrictions for women at Catholic universities:

One recent Georgetown law graduate, who asked not to be identified for reasons of medical privacy, said she had polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition for which her doctor prescribed birth control pills. She is gay and had no other reason to take the pills. Georgetown does not cover birth control for students, so she made sure her doctor noted the diagnosis on her prescription. Even so, coverage was denied several times. She finally gave up and paid out of pocket, more than $100 a month. After a few months she could no longer afford the pills. Within months she developed a large ovarian cyst that had to be removed surgically — along with her ovary.

The former student points out that, due to Georgetown not covering birth control even for clearly medical reasons, she now has only one working ovary and will have to see a fertility specialist if she wishes to have children.

A 23-year-old who became pregnant while an undergraduate at Fordham and who is Catholic said that she used birth control pills while in high school, but “gave them up at Fordham because she could not afford the doctor visit needed for a prescription.” After becoming pregnant (her boyfriend was using a condom) she considered an abortion but then decided to have the baby — and, says the New York Times, ”she said she knew six other Fordham students who had become pregnant and had abortions.”

Certainly there are some students at Catholic institutions who condone the Church’s policies on birth control. Catholic schools’ restrictions on covering birth control are particularly an issue for graduate and professional students studying for degrees in law, psychology, social work and other fields, as such students are likely to be older and in relationships or married (and both Fordham and Georgetown have nationally-ranked graduate and professional schools that draw students from around the world). The existence of the restrictions makes being a student at Catholic institutions a decidedly different experience than if one were studying at a public university or a private institution without a religious affiliation.

The Obama administration has given Catholic schools and religious organizations a one-year delay before they must comply with the rule. Will Catholic institutions continue to discriminate against female students by not providing them with important health care services?

Related Care2 Coverage

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Photo by starbooze


John Z.
John Z5 years ago

Jackie - the more one studies the Catholic Church, the more one discovers that it is indeed they who are both current and also well ahead of the times.

Jackie Agusta
Jackie Agusta5 years ago

When oh when will Catholics move with the times? Obama is right :-)

Jose M. C.
JOSE M. C5 years ago

It seems odd when a church that regularly turns a blind eye to the many vices of its people would take such an unyielding stance on one issue. I consider myself morally conservative, but I also believe in teaching people correct principles and then letting them govern themselves. Permitting coverage for birth control is not the same as giving it out. Employees will decide for themselves whether they want to use it.

Besides, suppose a woman pays out of pocket for birth control, or even an abortion. Didn't her employer "pay" for it by giving her the job? Should this not prompt a faith-based business to dismiss her to settle their own conscience? What about all the poor people that churches feed on a daily basis who then take what little money they would have had for food and spend it on other evil things? Where do you draw the line?

Faith Purdy
Faith Purdy5 years ago

as a (female) junior in high school who is planning on going to college i can now remove all the schools with a religious affiliation from my list of possible shcools.

Christine K.
Christine K.5 years ago

It's not that I don't consider the position of the Catholic church hopelessly archaic and irresponsible, BUT it seems to me this is more an issue of general health care - why should the university pay for your doctors' visits anyway? Of course, I don't live in the States .. Perhaps that's also why 100$ per month seems to me a preposterous amount to pay for birth control pills. Finally I agree with the lady who suggests to just not go to Catholic Universities! Wouldn't it be fun if their numbers of students dropped dramatically because of their birth control policy?! (I live in a dream world, right? but wouldn't it be fun?)

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal5 years ago

Archaic rules concerning contraception were created by men in pointed shoes and dresses who support predators within their club...God have mercy.

Linda McKellar
Past Member 5 years ago

Thank you Patricia for your comment. I have seen many great cathedreals around the world and they are awe inspiring and built out of sheer, unshakeable faith by the common people. To hear a choir sing in one of these edifices like St. Pauls or Notre Dame is inspiring even for a non believer like myself. Architecture, as well as music and preservation of history and ancient literature was a big contribution of religion...absolutely. Now that we are in a more modern age, however,I feel the huge churches being built are primarily out of vanity of the particular organized religions and the money could be better spent. Again, thank you for clarifying my position.

Patricia Q.
Patricia Q5 years ago

continued...Jesus was not saying, "Don't do anything for the poor." Money is transitory. What she was expressing is not and it is what has been so lost in the translation for hundreds of years.

Patricia Q.
Patricia Q5 years ago

Linda M., I went back and read your previous comment and that of John Z. You are absolutely correct that I attributed something to you that did not originate with you and I apologize.

I have no doubt that some churches are built by congregations whose main agenda may be to impress others. The ancient cathedrals were often built, not by wealthy people, but by common people who did the labor and endeavored to share what they felt inside that was much too deep for words. They did so anonymously and out of the love they felt, with the desire to express to God what words cannot say. It was also their way of attempting to share with others their own deep experience of God. I do not believe that vanity was being attributed to God. The message that is beyond words has all but been lost in our current denominational structures. I think that this may be one reason you have to visit the ancient cathedrals to recapture it if you are open to it.

There is a story in scripture (John 12: 3-8) where the disciple, Mary, takes a pound of very expensive ointment. She anoints the feet of Jesus and wipes his feet with her hair. She was immediately criticized by Judas because it was not sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus' response was to tell them to leave her alone. He acknowledged her extravagant gift as something she had saved for his coming burial and that it was the truest expression of what she felt in her heart and wanted to convey to Him. Jesus was not saying, "Do

annelies j.
annelies j5 years ago

Patricia Q:
".I am not Catholic, but I have experienced a deep sense of awe and worship being in magnificent cathedrals built for the glory of God."

Funny, as a very young child, I would sit in those churches, full of very expensive art and gold, and wonder how an institution that's constantly telling me that this Jesus was full of love for the poor, yet his followers chose to "glorify" their God in this manner. It just didn't make sense........