Health Insurance Plan Raises Uncertainties Over Contraception


Published: April 13, 2011

Fordham University does not prescribe birth control at its health center or distribute condoms on its undergraduate campuses. However, New York state law mandates that the Fordham insurance plan cover contraception. These contradictories have left students, particularly women who have subscribed to Fordham’s plan, uncertain as to where they can seek such medical services and attain the necessary medical care.

These uncertainties prompted “Contraception on Catholic Campuses: Perspectives on Fordham’s Policies” on March 30. Law Students for Reproductive Justice from Fordham Law School (FLS) sponsored the event and assembled a panel featuring Fordham theology professors, faculty members from FLS and law students. Fordham undergraduate, graduate and law students, as well as Fordham faculty, discussed the religious, ethical and legal questions surrounding the Fordham insurance plan and what implication this has from a Catholic perspective.

“One big aspect of the panel was the lack of notice that Fordham students get when they sign up for plan,” Juliana Thorstenn, first-year law student, said. “It doesn’t say explicitly anywhere on the website that Health Services doesn’t provide birth control, and a lot of women only find out when they go to the center for an exam and prescription.”

The Student Health Services website states that nurses will perform gynecological exams and send out lab work. However, staff must “abide by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Services.”

This statement doesn’t clearly define Fordham’s stance on birth control. Thus, a student seeking birth control that has already subscribed to the plan has to get a prescription from an alternative provider.

“I have insurance from my parents’ work and it is easier for me to go to my own healthcare provider,” Claudia Zakrzewski, FCLC ’13, said.

Since Health Services is the primary provider for students on Fordham’s plan, students who wish to obtain birth control must go to an outside clinic and pay a co-payment.

“The hassle and extra expense definitely makes it a lot harder for women on Fordham’s plan to get birth control,” Thorstenn said.

Some participants at the event theorized that such factors would lead students to engage in unsafe sex, generating the discussion of the moral and ethical implications of denying birth control.

Stephanie Chase, FCLC ’12, agrees. “My personal belief is that students should be allowed to receive birth control prescriptions and condoms from their school,” Chase said. “Although abstinence is the only way to prevent pregnancy, realistically college students are going to have sex, which puts them at risk for both pregnancy and STDs.”

While Zakrzewski is not in favor of birth control, she does believe that students should be able to receive condoms from their school. “[Condoms] could be the one thing that stops unexpected or unwanted pregnancy, and most importantly sexually transmitted diseases,” Zakrzewski said.

Chase said she understands why Fordham doesn’t provide contraception to its students. “Fordham is both a Catholic and private institution. Thought I don’t agree with their method, they have the right to enforce it,” Chase said.

Since the rules are not clearly stated, others argued that if Fordham was upfront on letting women know that they won’t dispense birth control and that they must seek and pay for prescriptions elsewhere, women would have the option to find alternative insurance plans.

“Basically we were asking why Fordham was being so sneaky about it and pointing out that if it’s going to be a Catholic institution, it should at least own up to it so women who want birth control can choose another plan,” Thorstenn said.