Sunday, November 20, 2011

Contraception at Fordham: What We Know and What We Don’t

Dear Fellow Fordham Students,

No Fordham website or student handbook explicitly states that the health centers will not prescribe birth control.  Students generally learn this is the practice through word of mouth or upon visiting a health center in the mistaken belief that it provides standard medical care.  We often learn this only after purchasing health insurance through Fordham, which requires that students receive their primary healthcare on campus or incur extra costs. 

Members of our religiously diverse student body who are not knowledgeable about Catholic doctrine and its expression in healthcare have little reason to expect they will receive non-standard services.  Those who do anticipate this could be a problem are likely to be misled by the materials describing the health plan and health services, which mention only that contraception is covered per New York State law and that non-hormonal birth control is not covered.

The University has failed to provide written notice of its policies despite the fact that we first inquired about them over six months ago.  The director of the health centers has explained that students are informed of the policies, which she stated are not promulgated by a specific department at Fordham but come from the Pope, via a link to the Catholic Healthcare Directives in the FAQ section of the health centers’ website. 

The link is not sufficient notice of Fordham’s medical practices.  It is reasonable for a student to assume her yearly gynecological exam will include attention to both her reproductive and general health, in which case she would not have any issues that would lead her to the FAQs.

Furthermore, the Catholic Healthcare Directives do not describe any policies specific to Fordham.  It does not explain whether contraception is available to Fordham students at all or for reasons other than or in addition to preventing pregnancy, such as the treatment of ovarian cysts, endometriosis, dysmenorrhea, or acne.  We have been told it will be prescribed for properly documented medical conditions, but this does not appear to be true in practice.  Furthermore, we do not know what conditions apply, how severe they must be, or what documentation is required.

Students insured by Fordham may see a doctor outside of Fordham, but will incur a $100 deductible for this “condition” regardless of previous medical expenditures.  This means that women insured by Fordham are paying more for their health care than men.  We understand that this leads many students to seek health services at Planned Parenthood.  This is a good option given the situation, but it is unfortunate students must take up resources meant for low-income, uninsured individuals.

We have requested that Fordham clearly state its policies on its website where prospective students, insurance purchasers, and patients may easily consult them, preferably in the “Insurance” and “Women’s Health” sections of the website.  Our request was met with a vague response that the University would review its communications, but this has not resulted in any updates to the website.  They have declined to commit to making any changes or give us any time frame for completion of the review.

This affects every student as an issue of notice and respect.  Fordham Law Students for Reproductive Justice and Fordham Law Women have heard many stories from students affected by the policies or the lack of notice of them, but we would like to hear more.  Please email us at with stories, questions, and comments or if you would like to receive updates about this issue.

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