The University of Notre Dame was recently in the news for deciding to deny birth control coverage to its students and employees. This was a result of a recent decision from the Trump administration, saying that organizations could deny to provide contraceptives based on religious and moral objections.
Yet, the debate over whether or not schools and employers should be allowed to deny contraceptives due to religious or moral objections has been occurring for years and became more heated after the Affordable Care Act mandate that demanded this coverage. Notre Dame, a historically Catholic university, has sued in the past for an exemption from the Obama administration’s rules, although that lawsuit was unsuccessful. The university has also been criticized in the past by students who believed that they did not receive adequate resources. Prior to the most recent decision, Notre Dame students were able to get birth control through a third-party coverage plan. However, the campus pharmacy refused to provide the medication to anybody who did not have a reason outside of pregnancy prevention. Students with both on and off campus insurance plans struggled to get their prescriptions refilled.
People who take birth control pills do so for a variety of health reasons. Contraceptives can help with irregular period cycles, painful cramping, and even acne. They also help countless women who deal with conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis, which can both be incredibly debilitating. For somebody with one of these diagnoses, access to birth control could have a significant impact on their quality of life. A recent study also showed that women who take birth control pills for an extended period of time have a decreased risk of certain cancers.
Yet, even if somebody does take contraceptives to prevent pregnancy, this is a completely valid reason in and of itself. Wanting to have safe sex without the risk of pregnancy is not something anybody should have to feel ashamed about. The recent follow-up statement from Notre Dame, which says that students who have a demonstrated medical need would still be able to get a prescription, is not an adequate or humane policy. Nobody should have to justify the decisions they make with their body to anybody else. Somebody’s own personal objections should not have a negative impact on somebody else’s ability to choose and their own wellbeing. It is time to stop interfering in women’s health and to provide them with the medical resources they need.