Law students deliver petition to University, escalating demands for contraceptive coverage

Over 700 students signed a petition to the University last Thursday calling for contraceptive coverage in the student health plans for the coming academic year. The letter was jointly signed by law student Sandra Fluke and Georgetown’s Law Students for Reproductive Justice. This action followed a similar petition from the Law Center’s faculty, in which 66 members of the law faculty urged President John J. DeGioia to reconsider the current health plan.

According to to the letter, undergraduate student movements for contraception are forming, but a response from undergraduates has yet to be seen. H*yas for Choice could not be reached for comment on their potential plans to collaborate with Fluke or LSRJ on further petitions or actions to demand contraception for students.

Kelly Percival, Georgetown law student and member of LSRJ, told Vox in an email: “We are working with H*yas for Choice, Georgetown Med Students for Choice, as well as a group of students from Georgetown’s business school to collect signatures on similar petitions. We hope that the university chooses to listen to our student voices by not unnecessarily delaying contraception coverage until 2013.”

The University consistently remained resolute on the issue since Fluke’s testimony to Congress earlier this year. In a letter released to the Washington Post last Friday, DeGioia wrote to a law professor that “We do not intend to change Georgetown’s longstanding practice of excluding contraceptive coverage for the purposes of birth control from its student health insurance offerings unless explicitly required to do so by law.”

Georgetown law professor M. Gregg Bloche, who wrote an Op-Ed in the Huffington Post on the faculty petition and the University’s response, wrote in an email to Vox:

The law now requires that Georgetown’s health plan for students cover contraception – by next year at the latest.  I’m confident that the University will honor President DeGioia’s commitment (and our legal obligation).  Though the University might, in theory, be able to put this off until 2013, I very much hope that we act this year.

On August 1, all health care insurance providers will be required to cover contraception in their plans. Since religious colleges and universities may apply for a one-year extension, law students hope that the petition will force the University to change the health plan earlier. However, rumblings from law students and faculty fail to convince the University, as of yet, to act upon the laws any earlier than mandated.

Mounting pressure on the University has not been one-sided. Georgetown’s Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternity, also signed a very different petition to President DeGioia. The students claim that recent activism on campus is concerning to students interested in preserving the Georgetown’s Catholic identity. The group demands a formal statement from the University clarifying its position on contraceptive coverage:

At the least, a statement clarifying misconceptions should be made. Informed debate is healthy and can be productive, but debate unsupported by adequate knowledge can often result in emotional responses that are unproductive and lead to unnecessary division and misunderstanding. Faith and reason can only work together if students are adequately informed.

In his op-ed, Bloche aptly describes the nature of this ongoing debate: “When it comes to contraception, consensus breaks down.” Petitions continue to boil under the surface, but the administration’s response has not budged.

Photo: Flickr

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