AU will not be requesting a one-year delay in providing free contraception to students, regardless of its religious affiliation.
The Affordable Health Care Act requires contraception to be included in all student health care plans starting August 2012. Religiously based universities, however, can avoid providing contraception for another year, if requested.
Dan Bruey, director of the Student Health Center, said AU has always been dedicated to serving the contraception needs of students.
“Contraception is a vital part of our service and women’s health, so we’ve tried to stay out of all the political debate going on and just take it back to what our service to students should be,” he said, “and then find out what we need to do to comply with the health care legislation.”
During the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the AU Student Health Center hosted 12,000 student visits, and at 1,900 contraception was dispensed or discussed.
Students spent $19,600 on contraception at the Health Center or about $15 per month for a prescription, Bruey said.
AU United Methodist Chaplain Rev. Mark Schaefer said student contraception use has never been an issue on campus. The Methodist community views it as part of responsible development in the world, he said.
“We support it as part of responsible family planning and as a health issue, too,” Schaefer said. “I don’t know if any United Methodists are opposed to birth control to the point where they would take action.”
Fluke encourages student advocacy
Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law student who testified before Congress on the importance of free contraception, said she hopes universities will not delay contraception coverage to students for religious reasons.
Fluke said it makes no sense to delay what she sees as an inevitable policy. She believes the option will prolong the struggles some students have in paying for contraception.
“It’s interesting because this was part of a much wider improvement of student insurance, by increasing the benefits and making sure that students who have a chronic illness like cancer don’t hit coverage maximums,” she said in an interview with The Eagle. “Everything has to take effect in August 2012 — except contraception.”
Although AU is tolerant of contraception use on campus, Fluke said this should not stop students from taking part in the political debate against what the media has sometimes referred to as the “War on Women.”
“I’m hoping that those students will care about this issue and find their local university that is religiously affiliated and doesn’t have coverage, and partner with those students and provide support,” she said. “Because as we all know, it’s hard to do this work and this kind of organizing when you’re in school, too. There are lots of religiously affiliated student groups that could certainly use the help.”
Fluke is providing as much help as she can, using her overnight fame to get her message across through the media.
Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh insulted Fluke 53 times on his show over the course of three days after she testified on Feb. 23, calling her a “slut” and accusing her of needing contraception to have more sex.
Fluke said Limbaugh was trying to silence women with his misogynistic attacks, but she is now using the resulting media spotlight in a positive way.
“I’m trying to make something good of a bad situation,” she said. “I’m trying to use the fact that I was thrust into the media spotlight as a way to get out the messages about how important these policies are to women’s health and to student health and to draw attention to things that are really critical.”