Quick Takes: Under Control

Law Challenges Religious Principles

Under President Obama’s new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, all health insurance plans will be required to include women’s health services including contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing medications. Although this mandate will benefit a great number of women, the law ultimately infringes on the First Amendment rights of private religious groups to oppose contraception.

Notre Dame University, a well-known Catholic school, is one of many groups that are filing lawsuits against the legislation. Notre Dame Student Health Services will now have to offer birth control pills to students without charge, which goes against the religious beliefs that the university was founded upon and still follows. Universities like Notre Dame should not have to violate their own rights to express their religious views in order to abide by the law.

Due to this act, a few religious universities including Ave Maria University have shut down student health centers and decided not to offer health services for their students. The college will still require students to have health insurance, but the cost of an insurance plan outside the university is undoubtedly much higher. The school is choosing to put the convenience of its students aside to uphold its religious values.

The PPAC act should accommodate the values of religious groups by softening the requirement instead of enforcing this legislation on ‘all health insurance plans. The act specifically allows churches to opt out but does not lift the requirement for religious nonprofits including universities and hospitals. These religious establishments should receive the same treatment as houses of worship because both are founded on age-old religious principles.

Even if religious universities claim exemption from this law, students will still have a wide variety of resources off campus to obtain contraception, and this is a much better alternative to students having no access to health services on campus.

Revathy Sampath-Kumar
Staff Writer

Demand for Birth Control is Universal

This past January, the White House Department of Health and Human Services announced that under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, all employers must fully cover women’s health services including such contraceptive medications as the “morning after” pill. Since then, a slew of Catholic colleges and universities have sued the department over the mandate. As understandable as their aversion to contraceptives may be, administrators at religious and secular universities alike should meet the need for birth control that exists on their campuses. 

Around 77 percent of pregnancies in college are unplanned, according to a 2008 report published by the National Campaign to End Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. The study found no significant difference in pregnancy rates between students at religious and public universities. Given these statistics, it is unrealistic for Catholic universities to expect — as they currently do — that their students engage in abstinence, and that they therefore do not need contraceptives. 

According to statistics released in 2011 by the Guttmacher Institute, a NYC and Washington DC based non-profit organization that conducts reproductive health research, 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women aged 15 to 44 have used contraception. Eighty-one percent of students at Catholic universities are Catholic. Moreover, 58 percent of Catholics — higher than the national average of 55 percent — say that religiously affiliated colleges should be required to cover birth control as part of student health insurance. 

The National Campaign’s report found that the abortion rate was higher in regions where contraceptives were not readily available. This makes sense, given the stigma surrounding contraception at religious universities. 

Sexual activity is a reality at all college campuses, including religious ones. To avoid unplanned pregnancies and abortions among university students, contraception should be made available, regardless of a university’s religious affiliation.  

— Ayan Kusari

Staff Writer 

Coverage Not Responsibility of Schools

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandates that all health insurance plans provided by employers and universities must cover “women’s health services,” including birth control and Plan B with no co-pay. This has created a political firestorm for the Obama Administration, as religious universities strongly oppose this measure on religious and moral grounds. These universities have valid arguments, as it is not a university’s obligation to cover birth control and students are competent enough to find contraceptive solutions themselves.

While schools should not be required to offer emergency contraceptives carte blanche, they can take steps to ensure students have the knowledge of where and how they can acquire birth control or emergency contraceptives.

 In a May 2012 study by Eszter Hargittai and Heather Young of Northwestern University, one in three students could not find any relevant information regarding emergency contraceptives online, and a majority could not find an efficient way to obtain contraception in general. Universities can at the very least provide pamphlets that give the locations of pharmacies or clinics within a reasonable radius that offer such services.

The problem becomes murkier for students who attend college in rural areas — where pharmacies and clinics are not as bountiful. It is then up to the university to advocate the building of clinics nearby,  or arranging transportation to such places if they are located far away.

It is not a learning institution’s responsibility to provide birth control, but it is their responsibility to give students the tools that they need to find birth control at a clinic or pharmacy near them. Though schools should solve this problem without violating their own religious standards, the schools should do so with minimal invasiveness to the privacy of students and allow students to retain their dignity while seeking medical services.

— Aleks Levin
Staff Writer
 

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