.- The president of Georgetown University cited the importance of Catholic identity in his announcement that student health care plans will not be adjusted to include coverage of birth control.
However, he also indicated that the D.C.-based Jesuit university will continue its practice of offering such coverage to employees.
In an April 26 email to the university community, President John J. DeGioia said that after “thoughtful and careful consideration,” the administration has decided to “continue our current practice for contraceptive coverage in our student health insurance for the coming year.”
DeGioia also said the university will not change its approach to contraceptive coverage for employees in 2013.
Georgetown’s current student health plan does not cover birth control for contraceptive purposes. But according to the National Women’s Law Center, employees of the university can choose between multiple plans, including some that include birth control coverage.
In February, a Georgetown University spokesperson confirmed to left-leaning blog ThinkProgress that employees have access to insurance plans that cover contraceptives. The school's media office, however, did not respond to CNA’s inquiries about this discrepancy.
DeGioia’s email came amid continuing controversy over the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, which will require colleges to offer health insurance plans that cover birth control, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
The regulation, which is currently the subject of numerous lawsuits, allows for a one-year deferral period for employees and colleges that do not currently offer the coverage due to moral objections.
Georgetown has been in the spotlight during the debate due to law student Sandra Fluke, who made national headlines in February, when she testified before a democratic House committee on why she thought religious institutions should be required to provide free contraceptive coverage to students.
In the weeks that followed, numerous students petitioned the university to change its student health plans to include access to contraception.
In an April 16 letter, more than 100 students and alumni had called on President DeGioia to clarify the Jesuit university’s position on the controversial issue.
The letter came in the wake of a campus event at which Fluke promoted free contraception access. Its signers objected to the fact that the event did not also include a speaker presenting the Church’s teaching on the subject, an omission that they said may lead students to draw inaccurate conclusions.
DeGioia did not reference this letter in his email but did explain that he wanted to clarify the university’s position on the subject and clear up misconceptions about its current coverage.
He explained that while the student plan “does not cover prescription contraceptives for birth control,” it does cover them “for health reasons unrelated to birth control, as determined by a physician.”
During her testimony, Fluke had complained of consequences suffered by women who were denied the contraception they needed for medical purposes.
DeGioia acknowledged that many people in the Georgetown community “have expressed different perspectives on this issue” and thanked them for showing respect in sharing their views.
He also observed that while Georgetown – like most universities – requires students to have health insurance, it does not require them to purchase the school’s insurance plan. Students are free to purchase different health insurance plans from a third party if they choose to do so, he said.
Students who do decide to purchase the insurance plan offered by Georgetown should be aware that it “is consistent with our Catholic and Jesuit identity,” DeGioia said.