Monday, November 5, 2012

Debate Wednesday on Contraceptive Coverage and Religious Liberty

We are co-sponsoring this debate with the Fordham chapters of the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society:
We are pleased to inform you of our next event!! The event will be a debate and will be Wednesday November 7, from 4:00-5:30 PM in the Moot Court Room. DELUXE KOSHER CHINESE BUFFET WILL BE SERVED!
Title: "Contraceptive Coverage and Religious Liberty"

The debaters will be:

Richard Epstein, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, Adjunct Scholar at the CATO Institute, the Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law Emeritus and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, and a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute  
and Bridgette Dunlap, Human Rights Fellow at the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at Fordham Law School, former Crowley Scholar in International Human Rights, former President of Fordham Law Students for Reproductive Justice, and recipient of the Eugene J. Keefe Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to the Fordham community
The debate is at Fordham Law School, 140 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023 and is open to the public.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Prescribe Fordham 2!: Fordham’s Off-Campus Birth Control Clinic Night Returns

Attendees must RSVP at this link!

Prescribe Fordham 2!:  Fordham’s Off-Campus Birth Control Clinic Night Returns

On October 24th from 6:00 to 9:30, a coalition of Fordham University student groups and academic departments will hold a birth control clinic and sexual health fair blocks from the school’s Lincoln Center campus, at the John Jay College Conference Center at 524 W. 59th Street.

Fordham University prohibits medical providers at its health centers from prescribing birth control and has an unwritten policy forbidding the distribution of condoms on campus.  Fordham attributes these policies to its Catholic-affiliation. Though Fordham receives New York State funding on the basis of representations that it is non-denominational, medical care at Fordham is governed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop's Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.

At Prescribe Fordham 2!, students can consult with uncensored doctors from the Institute for Family Health about reproductive health and disease prevention.  After a medical screening and blood pressure check, the Family Institute doctors can prescribe contraceptives to students or advise them about long-acting contraceptive methods. 

Fordham student insurance covers contraceptives as required by the New York Women’s Health and Wellness Act.  Now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”), students with Fordham insurance can receive a gynecological exam off-campus from a medical provider who is under no religiously-based constraints without paying a co-payment.  While this is a significant improvement for our insured students, access to contraception remains a problem for Fordham students who lack insurance (an estimated 35% according to the administration) or a doctor in New York.  The Fordham health center policies are particularly problematic for students at Fordham’s Rose Hill campus due to the prevalence of “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” in the Bronx, which present themselves as family planning clinics but do not provide contraception or medical care and are known to advertise on campus.  

Fordham administrators and health center staff assert there is a health exception to the prescription ban, but in practice students have been turned away even with records of serious medical conditions. The administration has declined to explain what conditions justify treatment, of what severity, and who makes this determination.  Many students seek health services at Planned Parenthood, taking up resources needed by uninsured and low-income patients.

Prescribe Fordham 2! is a way for members of the Fordham community to work around the expense and inconvenience that result from the University’s policies and make unknowing students aware that the University provides non-standard healthcare.  It is also an opportunity to discuss the significant influence on women’s health of Catholic leaders outside the Catholic mainstream.  

The event is sponsored by the Fordham Chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, Fordham OUTlaws, The Institute for Women and Girls at the Graduate School of Social Service, The Women's Studies Department at Lincoln Center, The Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Lincoln Center, and the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice, the Women’s Center at John Jay College and the Reproductive Health Access Project.  It is also open to students of John Jay College, the New York Institute of Technology, Seton Hall University, and St. John’s University. Students of other schools who wish to attend should email

For more information, email or visit

Attendees must RSVP  here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Prescribe Fordham II!

UPDATE:  See the new post with current information here.  

Mark your calendars for Prescribe Fordham 2012!  Our second (annual?) birth control clinic and sexual health fair, where students will be able to meet with doctors from the Institute for Family Health, receive birth control prescriptions and condoms, and discuss their health and access to care.

Wednesday, October 24th
John Jay College Conference Center
524 West 59th Street

The Fordham health centers will not prescribe birth control.  If you are in need of a prescription,  you can meet with a doctor from the Institute for Family Health who can conduct a medical screening and prescribe contraception.  

Watch this space for updates and information on free transportation from Fordham's Rose Hill campus.  This event is also open to students of John Jay College and the New York Institute of Technology.

You must RSVP here.

Special thanks to the Women's Center at John Jay College and the Reproductive Health Access Project!

Sponsored by Law Students for Reproductive Justice, The Institute for Women and Girls at the Graduate School of Social Services, The Women's Studies Department at Lincoln Center, The Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Lincoln Center, and the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at Fordham Law.

Email with questions, suggestions, or to share your story.

You can read about last year's clinic here, herehere, and here.

The Contraceptive Coverage Lawsuits

Fordham LSRJ alum Bridgette Dunlap looks at the thirty lawsuits challenging the HHS contraceptive mandate here.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Notre Dame Students Petition Asks University to Drop Complaint

Check out the awesome activism done by Notre Dame students with their petition here.  They make some great arguments, and question whether providing contraception would violate the university's conscience.

Link via RH Reality Check

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Reproductive Justice Link Clickys!

Here's some awesome reading for the rest of your summer break!  Enjoy!

Recent Fordham grad Bridgette Dunlap wrote an article on why the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops argument about religious freedom is a lie.

And then she followed that up with more discussion of the USCCB's demonstrably false statement regarding the contraception mandate.

This a great article from the National Women's Law Center about information students should know about women's health services in the health care act that went into effect on August 1st.

This excellent video done by the L.A. Times describes the situation in the Philippines, where contraception is inaccessible by the poor, and how that affects families.  (Click on the fifth video, but each is insightful.)

Friday, July 13, 2012


Graduation was amazing.  I was so honored to receive the Eugene J. Keefe Memorial Award for outstanding contributions and service to the Fordham community along with Mike Zimmerman.  Here's the video of us accepting the award (I was unexpectedly crazy nervous). The extended draft of my remarks (had to cut for time) is below. 
I'm so grateful to LSRJ and everyone who supported us. And incredibly proud to be a Fordham Law grad!

I am very honored to be recognized with the Keefe Award and we share it with everyone here who has worked to make Fordham a better place.
Catholic-affiliated institutions like ours have been in the news quite a bit this year, and they have often been portrayed in ways that don’t reflect the Fordham Law experience. At Fordham , we value diverse perspectives and respect principled disagreement. We work for equality and believe the law protects it. We are a community that welcomes people of all faiths or no faith, all races, heritages, nationalities, genders, and sexual orientations.  Where we could be more welcoming of difference, we have worked to educated each other and improve.

The invocation today may have been the first time you’ve heard a prayer  in your time at Fordham, but it is important to realize that even if we are Jewish, Muslim, or atheist – we are all Catholic school kids now. As such, we have a shared responsibility to make Catholic institutions a force for good and to see that fact is understood in the world.

Earlier this year I heard the undergraduate student body president of Fordham college at Lincoln Center tell his peers that “As students of a Jesuit institution, we are called to be bothered by injustice.” I will add that as Fordham lawyers, graduates of a law school “In the Service of Others,” we are called to remedy the injustice we see.

I know that we will continue to bring the Fordham Law spirit of service to firms and organizations throughout the world.  I hope that as we tackle big problems, we refuse to tolerate the seemingly little injustices as well; that we are mindful of how our power and privilege, which will only increase with the degrees we receive today, can insulate us from their effects. 

When the farmshare shut down, we could have gotten our organic vegetables elsewhere.  It didn't make sense that we had to, but more importantly those vegetables were missed by members of our community at St. Paul’s soup kitchen next door, who don't have the same options we do. 

What may have been a relatively minor practical obstacle to accessing contraceptives for a law student can be something else entirely for an 18-year-old who has just moved to the Bronx. Furthermore, that hurdle, though manageable, has larger implications for the equal participation of women in society and the workforce.  We are called to be bothered and to act - so we did.

I feel extremely fortunate for the education I’ve received from my excellent professors and my peers at Fordham and I look forward to all of our continued contributions to the Fordham community and to our field.

Thank you.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Fordham Observer on whether there is a health exception in practice

Check out Harry Huggins' story in The Observer, Birth Control Policy Questioned:

When asked to provide the number of women prescribed birth control by the Health Center in the last five years, Director of Health Services Kathleen Malara declined to do so, saying that releasing the numbers would be a violation of student privacy. Student Press Law Center Consulting Attorney Mike Hiestand said that Fordham could share this information without violating any privacy laws, but that as a private institution it was not required to do so. 
In their dealings with the Health Center, neither Wolf nor Dunlap believed the nurse practitioners giving the exams were the people responsible for refusing to prescribe birth control. “As far as gynecological exams go, I think students should feel comfortable about going [to the Health Center],” Wolf said. “Everyone that works there was great and very professional.”
The LA Times reported on Fordham students with health issues who were denied treatment on campus as well.  Fordham LSRJ believes birth control is a fundamental part of women's health care, so we don't mean to overemphasize its use in the treatment of health conditions.  However, the fact that the University's statements regarding the Health Center policies are not reflective of the experiences of Fordham students is a serious problem:  in terms of both potential health consequences and what it says about the University's willingness to address the concerns of its students.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Democrats ask Issa to condem attacks on Sandra Fluke

I just received this from the oversight committee:

Dear Mr. Chairman:
        We are writing to ask that you, as the Chairman of the Oversight Committee, join us in a bipartisan manner to strongly condemn the recent statements by radio host Rush Limbaugh regarding Ms. Sandra Fluke, the third-year student at Georgetown law school whom we sought to have testify at the Committee’s hearing on contraceptives on February 16, 2012.
        As you know, Committee Democrats requested Ms. Fluke’s testimony to highlight the critical importance of insurance coverage for preventive health care, including contraceptives, to millions of women across the country. Letter from Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings to Chairman Darrell E. Issa, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (Feb. 15, 2012) (online at  After you refused to allow Ms. Fluke to testify before our Committee, she appeared before the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, and she conducted herself with intelligence, dignity, and sincerity. See Sandra Fluke Finally Testifies Before Congress, Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings (Feb. 23, 2012) (online at
        Yesterday’s statements by Rush Limbaugh were a vicious assault, not only against Ms. Fluke but against women across the country who rely on birth control and want it covered by their health insurance policies.  The pill has had a profound impact on their well-being, allowing them to control their lives, make very personal decisions about how many children to have and when to have them, and in some cases treat critical illnesses.
        As the Chairman of the Committee that first attempted to silence Ms. Fluke and prevent her from testifying, you are in a unique position to speak out now on her behalf and to join us in condemning, in the strongest possible terms, this very public and very malicious attack on all women who share her views.
        Thank you for considering this request.

Limbaugh attacks Sandra Fluke

After conversations about me testifying before the oversight committee, the Democrats initially decided against having a student because they expected the Republicans to be really nasty.   At first I thought I could take it, thanks to my experience being personally attacked by internet Catholics.  Then it occurred to me that they were worried about a student being called a whore in public, which I had to admit would be pretty awful.   
I'm so grateful for Sandra's bravery.  The attacks on her show that, though the Republicans keep absurdly repeating the talking point that "this isn't about contraception" it absolutely is - as a means to control and punish women.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

12 & Delaware screening today!

Movie Screening and Discussion 
Tasty snacks from Kashkaval will be served!
Wednesday, February 29th
4:00 - 6:15 in Room 303

Following the movie, a discussion will be led by Fordham LSRJ board members and David Benzaquen, Political & Legislative Action Coordinator from NARAL Pro-Choice New York.  Contact us at with any questions.

The seemingly sleepy intersection of Delaware Ave. and 12th St. in Fort Pierce, Fla. is ground zero for the ferocious abortion rights battle raging in America.  On one corner stands an abortion clinic; across the street is the Pregnancy Care Center, a pro-life outpost dedicated to heading off abortion seekers at the pass.

12TH & DELAWARE provides a compelling, fly-on-the-wall view of the ideological trench warfare that takes place daily at this crossroads, where women struggle to deal with unwanted pregnancy.  Directed by Oscar® nominees Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady's ("Jesus Camp"), 12TH & DELAWARE puts viewers in the middle of this intractable conflict. 

An official selection of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, 12TH & DELAWARE is the latest documentary from Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, who also directed 2006's "Jesus Camp," which was nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature.  Their other credits include "Rehab for Terrorists,"  "Freakonomics:  The Movie" and the award-winning "The Boys of Baraka."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Movie Screening - Wednesday, February 29 at 4:00

Come to our movie screening and discussion event this Wednesday at 4:00 in Room 303!

We will be watching 12th & Delaware, a documentary that tells the story of an abortion clinic and a crisis pregnancy center located across the street from each other, and includes interviews of the staff and patients of both organizations. Following the movie, a discussion will be led by Fordham LSRJ board members and David Benzaquen, Political & Legislative Action Coordinator from NARAL Pro-Choice New York.

Yummy Kashkaval food will be served! We look forward to seeing you there!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Indicting a Ham Sandwich

Jodi Jacobson has a great piece at RH Reality Check addressing the comparisons, strangely popular among Catholic birth control opponents, between non-discriminatory health services that include contraceptive care and Jews serving pork.  Fordham Law alumna Sara Yood had this to say in response to one such example in the New York Times article that reported on the birth control situation at Fordham:

To the Editor: 
As both a Jew and a graduate of Fordham Law School, I found Mr. Galligan-Stierle's comments equating access to birth control at a Catholic university to access to pork at a kosher barbecue offensive and insensitive.  How cavalier of him to assume that students choose universities with a full understanding of how the school's religious policies - or any other policy - may affect the availability of the healthcare and medications on which they depend.  I chose Fordham because of its superb reputation, expertise in my desired field, and prime location, not knowing how difficult it would be to get access to the reproductive care that is my right.  I don't know if I would have made a different decision had I been better informed, but at least I would have been prepared for the hundreds of dollars I paid for access to reproductive care while enrolled at Fordham.

Sara E. Yood 
Fordham Law School, J.D. 2011

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Testimony Sandra Didn't Get to Give and Fordham LSRJ's Statement for the Record

The House Oversight Committee refused to let Sandra Fluke of Georgetown LSRJ testify as a minority witness at today's ridiculously titled hearing, "Lines Crossed:  Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?"

You can read Sandra's excellent statement here.  We are with you Georgetown women!

This is the statement Fordham LSRJ submitted for the hearing record:

Putting the men in "Women's Health"

We are students of the Fordham University School of Law in New York City.  Fordham is a Jesuit-affiliated university, however, our student health insurance covers contraception as required by New York State law.  The New York Women’s Health and Wellness Act was passed in 2002 with the goal of promoting women's health and ending gender discrimination.  From our perspective here at Fordham, the suggestion that requiring the non-discriminatory prescription coverage we already enjoy is some kind of new and unprecedented encroachment on religious freedom seems strange and disingenuous.  

The New York law is not a violation of religious freedom.  Fordham didn’t have to go out of business or stop providing prescription coverage.  Our institution was able to accept that religiously affiliated entities that want to sell products in the marketplace like insurance and federally subsidized education must meet the same quality standards as non-religious organizations.

Unfortunately, even though we have contraception coverage thanks to the protections of New York state law, Fordham students still do not have access to affordable contraception.  This is because our health centers, where students with University insurance are meant to receive our primary and gynecological care, will not prescribe contraception.  So, whether a student needs contraception to prevent pregnancy, treat a medical condition or both – she has to pay a $100 deductible to visit a doctor off-campus for a prescription – even if she already underwent a gynecological exam on-campus in the mistaken belief that Fordham provided standard care.  One hundred dollars on top of a monthly copayment is a significant barrier to practicing contraception for a student living on loans.  

The experiences of women at Fordham show that though health exemptions from birth control bans may seem workable in theory, they are not in practice.  The Fordham health centers tell us they have a health exception, but students report being turned away despite medical conditions, some of them quite dangerous or painful.  Students have been refused contraception despite having endometriosis, severe acne, ovarian cysts, and high risk of ovarian cancer.

After hearing the stories from many women affected by the no-birth control policy, we decided we needed to address the lack of access to affordable contraception.  Last November, our student group, the Fordham Chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, organized a one night off-campus clinic so students could obtain birth control prescriptions.  Over forty students met with doctors and around one hundred students came out to show their support.  We are extremely grateful for the doctors who provided us treatment free of charge, but it is unfortunate that though we pay $2,300 to $2,400 per year for insurance we have to take up volunteer resources that should go to women who lack insurance and financial resources.

At the clinic, we had the opportunity to talk with smart, thoughtful undergraduates from Fordham’s Bronx and Manhattan campuses.  Undergraduates told us in person and in their exit surveys that access to contraception was a problem for them and they wished we had advertised the clinic on their campuses.  The impact of the University’s policies on the undergraduates, which I suspect may be even greater than that on the law students, is in fact a major concern driving our efforts.  It is extremely important for young women to be able to access comprehensive medical care without feeling judged or censored, regardless of whether they are having sex or plan to anytime soon.  Conversation and information help young women to anticipate and make decisions about what kind of sexual experiences they want to have and when.  Sex should be something a woman chooses because she wants it, not something that happens to her; a culture of secrecy and denial of the fact that some students are sexually active is not creating the conditions for that.

Our efforts to improve contraceptive access at Fordham have been met with various iterations of “you should have known” or “it’s you own fault for going to a Catholic school.”  This is a problematic idea for a number of reasons.  It inaccurately paints Catholics and Catholic institutions as monolithically rigid, unreasonable and beholden to the Vatican.  Catholic institutions can and do embrace people of varying beliefs, religions, sexual orientations and cultures.  Fordham University could not attract the caliber of students and faculty it does if it did not.  The implication that no Catholic-affiliated institution would provide standard health care or put policies in place that aren’t papally-approved, such as allowing LGBTQ student groups on campus or providing benefits to the same-sex partners of faculty members or funding scholarship contrary to Catholic doctrine, is inaccurate and offensive.  It rests on stereotypes of Catholics and ignores the fact that students contract with a particular institution, not a religious hierarchy. 

On the other hand, our work to get Fordham women the healthcare they need has also been met with an extraordinary outpouring of support.  Fordham students thank us for fighting for them and send their stories, professors tell us they are proud, and alumni of Fordham and other Catholic universities email their encouragement and advice.  

We sincerely believe that the medical personnel at our health centers would like to provide the care that is most appropriate for their patients.  We also believe that Fordham and other Catholic-affiliated institutions would like to do what is in the best interests of their students and employees.  However, Catholic-affiliated institutions are subject to significant pressures from influential groups off-campus that purport to speak for Catholics but may not represent the views of Catholic educational institutions, their students or employees.  Given this reality, we need laws that require equality in health care access.  Our experience at Fordham shows that religiously-affiliated institutions can comply with laws that protect a woman’s individual conscience and simultaneously promote their values and further their missions.  

Bridgette Dunlap
Emily Wolf
Fordham University School of Law
Fordham Chapter, Law Students for Reproductive Justice