Georgetown University's Health Plan Will Cover Contraception

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 23:  Sandra Fluke, a third-year law student at Georgetown University and former president of the St
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 23: Sandra Fluke, a third-year law student at Georgetown University and former president of the Students for Reproductive Justice group there, testifies during a hearing before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee February 23, 2012 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Fluke was blocked from testifying at last week's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's contraceptives hearing. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Students at the nation's oldest Catholic university will have their contraception covered through the school's health insurance plan.

Health care plans offered through Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. will include contraception coverage beginning August 15, the school announced last week. The insurance company contracting with the university will pay directly for contraception, rather than the university, as the result of a compromise on new health care laws from the Obama administration.

Georgetown President John DeGioia made the announcement to the campus community Thursday in a university-wide email.

"These regulations give us the opportunity to reconcile our religious identity and our commitment to providing access to affordable health care. Under the framework established by the Administration, the University’s insurance companies will cover the costs of contraceptive services for Georgetown faculty, staff and students who opt to use them, regardless of which health care plan each person has," DeGioia wrote.

Students won't be able to obtain contraception at the campus Student Health Center, because the physicians, nurse practitioners and staff must abide by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. Georgetown is a Jesuit university, founded by a member of Catholicism's largest religious order. But students can fill their prescriptions at pharmacies off campus.

Students have pushed for contraception coverage at Georgetown for years, especially since the university requires most students to purchase health insurance.

The university's policy to deny contraception coverage, citing Catholic teachings, caught national attention last year when Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke testified in the House about her peers' medical needs for birth control. Radio host Rush Limbaugh subsequently called her a "slut" and a "prostitute," sparking outcry.

Although conservatives sought to frame the issue around sex and pregnancy prevention, contraception is vital for certain non-sexual health concerns too. Oral birth control medication is sometimes used to battle ovarian cysts, and can prevent ovarian cancer.

H*yas for Choice President Laura Narefsky was happy with Georgetown's decision to help students achieve birth control coverage, the Hoya newspaper reports:

"I think the College of Cardinals is in a very privileged position, in that they are not directly responsible for the health and well-being of so many people," Narefsky said. "Georgetown has a responsibility not just as a member of the Catholic Church, but also as a research and educational institute with thousands of people who are and are not part of the Catholic Church."

Narefsky said that the accommodation was a step in the right direction toward reproductive justice.

"Georgetown doesn't have to finance or endorse it, but they realized that they can't maintain these archaic and out-of-touch views on modern healthcare," Narefsky said. "It shows progress and ability to move forward on a position that a lot of people think is a stalemate."

Not everyone is happy. Physics professor emeritus Ed Finn, wrote an email back to DeGioia expressing his concern that everyone will have higher premiums due to "free distribution of contraceptive devices."



The Colleges With The Most Religious Students (Princeton Review 2011)