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Catholic Students Stand Up for Women’s Health

Students spoke out today in favor of birth control access on college campuses in response to pressure from Catholic bishops to restrict contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Students from Catholic University of America, Georgetown University, Georgetown Law School, American University, and Fordham University spoke at the press conference this morning in Washington, D.C. in support of the Obama administration’s inclusion of birth control coverage without co-pays and deductibles under the ACA. Recognizing that the debate has largely excluded the voices of young women, the very people most affected by this inclusion, the students spoke about their own personal stories and how important it is to them and the women on their campus to have full and equal access to women’s health services. Students pledged to continue organizing around birth control access on their campuses with petition drives and a Valentine’s Day campaign targeting Congress. “We will not back down because we believe that the religious freedom of individual Catholics and students, no matter what their faith, and the need for comprehensive women’s healthcare must take priority to the demands of the Catholic Bishops,” said Callie Otto, of Catholic University. Sandra Fluke, of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice, stated, “At Georgetown Law, I and other women have struggled with a lack of contraceptive coverage that causes financial, medical, and emotional burdens. Unable to afford the $3,000 this costs students over their law school tenure, some women have gone without contraception, risking pregnancy and avoidable abortions. Others have spent hours in clinics, missing class, trying to find affordable birth control. In the worst cases, women who needed this medication for other medical reasons have suffered dire consequences. Just one example of many is a friend of mine. Her inability to access these prescriptions caused the loss of her ovary. These burdens are not shared by our male student colleagues.” Under the Preventive Care package of the ACA, all FDA-approved contraceptives will be covered without co-pays or deductibles, as will a variety of other health services, such as annual well-woman visits, cancer screenings, counseling, such as for domestic and interpersonal violence, and testing for HIV and STIs. The Obama administration has exempted from birth control coverage employers at some 335,000 houses of worship. Despite pressure from Catholic Bishops to expand the religious exemptions, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced in January that employees and students at religiously-affiliated institutions would have access to complete birth control coverage.

Sources:

CSPAN 2/9/12; USA Today 2/8/12; Reuters 2/7/12; Feminist News 1/31/12; Feminist News 1/20/12

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