Pending Law Receives Mixed Response
Catholic University students spoke out in favor of the mandatory distribution of contraceptives at a press conference yesterday, continuing the debate surrounding the anticipated law.
Hosted by Catholic Students for Women’s Health, the briefing provided an opportunity for college students from Catholic University, American University, Georgetown University and Fordham University to vocally support the law requiring that insurance providers offer birth control, condoms and abortifacients with no co-pay.
“We are here today speaking out for the millions of students across the country who applaud the Obama administration’s regulations, and demand our right to exercise our individual religious freedoms by making personal medical decisions without interference from religious authorities,” said Callie Otto, president of Catholic University Students for Choice, an organization not officially recognized by the University. “We will not back down because we believe that the religious freedom of individual Catholic students, no matter what their faith, and the need for comprehensive women’s health care must take priority to the Catholic bishops.”
All institutions are required to comply with the mandate initiated by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and to allow their employees access to preventative services by August of 2013. Institutions that will be affected by this new mandate include religiously affiliated universities, hospitals, and charitable agencies.
University administration and students spoke out against the birth control mandate in light of the recent press conference.
“I feel the mandate is a violation of religious liberty, forcing not only the Catholic Church, but other churches, to provide artificial means of birth control which are in violation of Church teaching,” said Rev. Jude DeAngelo, University Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry.
“The fact is this is a moral question, and a question that women can have the opportunity and the right to decide for themselves. This is what this whole argument is about,” said Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former lieutenant governor of Maryland, who spoke at the conference. “Catholic women of this generation know that they need contraceptive coverage. They need it because they are women of conscience, they make decisions wisely and they can make decisions about what is in the best interest of themselves, their families, and their health.”
At the press conference, students emphasized that 98% of Catholic women who are sexually active use some form of birth control. Townsend believes that the Catholic bishops have not convinced women that the Church’s views on this subject are right, and now they are trying to go through the government to do so.
“I know that people are throwing around numbers like 98%,” said DeAngelo. “Simply because people are not yet aware of the wisdom of God’s establishment of this gift of human sexuality and the Church’s desire for people to understand the dignity of each person and the morality of life and community, does not make them right.”
“Equal access to health care for women is not a religious issue,” said Eric Orantes, a Catholic University senior. “Birth control does far more than the Catholic Church perceives.”
“What, Catholic bishops, do you propose those students who have severe medical conditions which can be helped by the use of oral contraceptives should do? Have you ever felt the pain of ovarian cists? Or cramps so painful that you need prescription painkillers to get through the day?” Otto asked. “No, bishops, you have not felt this pain. Yet you make decisions for millions of women with such conditions.”
“There is absolutely no moral problem with using any medicine that would help to restore a normal bodily function,” said DeAngelo. “This idea that somehow the church is opposed to bringing relief or aid or medical care to women with whatever is an ethical use of discoveries, the Church does not have a problem with that.”
“As these groups of men decide how to manage women on our campuses, they cloak themselves behind the first amendment,” said Orantes. “They speak of persecution, of their religious freedoms while trampling on the liberties of women. As a male student I am appalled at such hypocrisy.”
Possibly facing a choice between providing a service that goes against Catholic teaching or paying a fine of $2,000 per employee, the university has to evaluate the situation and figure out what to do next.
“I dare not think [of the possible consequences of this law], because certainly our students need health insurance, our workers here on staff and faculty need health insurance,” said DeAngelo. “So I hope and pray that it doesn’t continue to be a threat to institutions like ours being able to provide for the people we employ or our students.”