D.C. colleges will soon be required to offer health insurance policies that provide birth control at no cost to employees and students, as part of recent developments in a bill that was vetoed in the U.S. Senate March 1.
The bill would have made it optional for employers and religiously affiliated institutions, including colleges, to deny insurance coverage for contraceptives on religious or moral grounds, according to The Washington Post.
The Blunt Bill, named for its creator Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo., challenged President Barack Obama’s mandate requiring all institutions, regardless of religious affiliation, to provide insurance policies that cover birth control in early February.
The bill would not have applied to AU’s Student Health Center, which dispenses birth control at $15 for a month’s supply.
AU’s Student Health Center dispensed 2,109 units of birth control from January to December 2011, according to the health center’s records.
If the Health Center does not carry the brand of birth control a student requests, the student can get a prescription to be filled at a nearby pharmacy.
Students can find additional contraception at the Wellness Center, which offers condoms, dental dams and information regarding both sexual health and abstinence.
“For college students, the Health Center is the one-stop shop for condoms and birth control,” said Hayley Miller, a senior in the School of Communication.
About 8,000 students visit the Health Center each year. About 70 percent of those students are female, according to Student Health Center Director Daniel Bruey.
“AU is pretty open about [birth control and sexual education],” said Nora Morse, a senior in the School of Public Affairs and an executive board member of AU’s Students for Choice.
Birth control should be offered at every student health center regardless of their religious affiliation, Morse said.
“It doesn’t encourage people to take birth control, it doesn’t encourage people to have sex, it’s just a basic health care need,” Morse said.
Catholic provides limited contraception
George Washington University’s Student Health Services also provides students with information on and access to various types of contraceptives, such as birth control, condoms and Plan B. They also include a survey that gives students the ability to determine the best birth control prescription for them.
“They’ve always done a good job of helping students with whatever their needs may be on this issue,” said Daniel Meighan, a senior at George Washington University. “Throughout my time here, I’d say the consensus is that the health center is doing a good job.”
However, Catholic University of America’s Student Health Services provides students with very limited contraceptives on campus on the basis of the Catholic Church’s teachings on premarital sex and birth control.
CUA students are required “to live in accordance with Catholic values and expectations,” according to the CUA Student Conduct Code. This means students are expected to heed the Catholic Church’s bans on contraceptives and premarital sex. CUA can pursue disciplinary action for any violation of the policy.
“If a student living on campus has any form of birth control or condoms, they can be written up and fined for it, and it will be taken away,” said Alyson Stapleton, a sophomore at CUA. “While the school promotes abstinence, I would argue that the rate of sexual activity on this campus is incredibly high and much higher than what its administrators think it is.”
CUA Medical Director Dr. Loretta Staudt said Student Health Services provides prescriptions for oral contraceptives only if they are intended to treat medical conditions, like ovarian cysts, endometriosis or dysmenorrhea.
If students look for any service that is not provided at CUA’s Student Health Services, they are directed to find a local provider who accepts their insurance through their health plan’s provider list, Staudt said.
Callie Otto, a senior at Catholic University and president of CUA’s student group Students for Choice, said the group recently collected signatures for a petition in support of students having access to birth control on campus. CUA asked the group to leave campus. The university does not officially recognize the Students for Choice group, which has 10-12 active members and 65 students on their Facebook group.