Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Impact of a Religious Exemption for Birth Control to University Students

Emily T. Wolf, Vice-President, Fordham Law Students for Reproductive Justice
This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival and is cross-posted from Repossess Reproductive Justice.

After spending the past three semesters trying to understand Fordham University’s birth control prescription policy, we recently had a small victory when the University updated the health center’s website to clarify that birth control will not be prescribed at Fordham unless the student has a medical exception.  This victory came at the same time as a larger victory announced by the Department of Health and Human Services that a religious exemption to contraceptive coverage in health insurance will not be extended. 

This is great news for students.  While insured students at Fordham and in New York are already covered by a New York state law that mandates insurance coverage for contraceptives (as well as students in 27 other states), this will ensure that all students who attend religious universities will be able to receive contraceptive at a more reasonable cost without a copay.  As we know, students are a vulnerable population (almost one in five young women ages 18-24 have experienced forced sexual intercourse) and low-cost contraception is an important part of being able to foster our own sexual health decisions.  Contraception can also ensure that students are able to decide when and how to parent children, which will certainly have an effect on students’ future careers.

Students of many different faiths and experiences attend religious universities.  While those in favor of a more broad religious exemption may have a problem with contraception as an imposition to their consciences, similar exemptions are already in place in over half of the states.  The Obama administration must continue to stand up for all of us to ensure that we receive the health care we need to survive and thrive.

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