Catholic schools deny women’s access to birth control

Nathan Lawrence

When it comes to birth control pills, every woman must choose for herself if she wants to use them. However, Fordham University in New York, New York apparently disagrees.

According to a The New York Times report on Jan. 30, it is the policy of Fordham University and many similar Jesuit schools across the country to deny prescriptions for birth control pills for any student — regardless of need — in order to enforce Roman Catholic tenets on contraception.

This policy can have severe consequences. At Georgetown University, where a similar policy is in place, a student suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome could no longer afford the pill, so she stopped taking it. The resulting cyst that formed in one of her ovaries over a matter of months was so large that the entire ovary had to be surgically removed.

It seems to me that in cases like these, the school’s doctor is violating one of the profession’s most important mantras: Do no harm. It is a doctor’s duty to help people, not hurt them. Refusing someone the medication they need, be that birth control or any other kind of medication, is potentially very harmful.

A child born unto a mother who didn’t want a child, but just couldn’t get the pill she needed to make sure it didn’t happen, would certainly be at a disadvantage from the beginning of his or her life.

Furthermore, the mother, who worked so hard to put herself through school, would be forced to take a break from her studies or risk letting her grades and the baby suffer from her divided attention. Worst of all, a woman like the student at Georgetown University could have her body seriously damaged from the lack of medication.

Doctors need to ask themselves if working to uphold religious beliefs is more important than saving and improving lives. These students have a right to the medication they need, when they need it.

It would take a very poor doctor to overlook a genuine need in favor of school policy, even a religious one. If the choice between religious tenets and improving human lives ever comes up, the answer should be obvious: The quality of life for a human being is far more important than a single rule.

The article in The New York Times also brings up another important point: Four out of ten pregnancies in the United States are aborted. It seems that Catholic schools have two of their values to choose from: They can prevent hundreds or even thousands of abortions each year, or they can cling to their rejection of all forms of contraception and perpetuate a system which does not help anybody.

The students may have won their battle against Fordham University last week, but the victory remains hollow: The only fruit of their hard work is a page on the school website that now explains the school’s policy on birth control pills. The rest of the story is far from over; schools across the country continue to deny students basic access to birth control pills.