As students, we expect Fordham to be open about its policies and provide students with information about what is clearly stated in its manuals. Many students are unaware that the Health Center is required to provide birth control in the case of specific medical conditions—and understandably so. The caveat, which is mandated under New York State law, wasn’t made clear on Fordham’s website until Bridgette Dunlap, Fordham Law School ’12, brought it to administrator’s attention. This is the only exception to Fordham’s Catholic stance against contraceptives. Fordham’s Health Center states the following on its website:
“Neither contraceptives nor birth control are distributed or prescribed on premises as a standard practice. Student Health Services does make limited exceptions for the treatment of medical conditions accompanied by supporting documentation.”
Despite the exception, according claims reported in Harry Huggins’ article “No Evidence of Practice of Health Exception for Birth Control” on page one, there is no proof that it has been observed. If the claims are correct, students with legitimate health concerns have still been denied birth control. Because of this, many have needed to go off campus to seek medical assistance, such as at free clinics. Others who already subscribe to Fordham’s health plan, were required to shell out additional money to obtain prescriptions for health problems at other places in the city.
We have seen extensive media coverage surrounding the topic today, especially since Obama recently changed his policy on the issue to allow Catholic institutions to deny birth control. It is a long-held and particularly contentious debate. One side argues that an institution has the right to hold on to its religious principles, exercising its dogma as it sees fit. The other side argues that an institution as large and diverse as Fordham needs to be sensitive to the needs and beliefs of its students and faculty, even if they conflict with Catholic teaching.
Regardless of one’s stance on the debate, we all agree that transparency and honesty should always come first. And while we cannot always find clarity in politics, we do expect that Fordham will be as clear as possible with its students and follow through with what they have publicized as the exception to the rule.
There may have been cases where the exception was adhered to; however, we have no knowledge of it. If Fordham wants its students and faculty to be able to respect its foundation as an institution, information on the matter must be made public to generate the conversation and set the record straight. We at the Observer propose that Student Health Services release the number of students to whom they’ve prescribed birth control.