President DeGioia responds to contraceptive petition, holds status quo

In response to the recent petitions on contraceptive coverage on campus, President John J. DeGioia sent an email to the Georgetown community this morning. He stated that after careful consideration, the university opted to retain their current health insurance model, noting that there would be no changes in contraceptive coverage in 2013 as well. DeGioia cited the plan’s adherence to the school’s Catholic and Jesuit identity, in addition to their voluntary nature.

The most notable petition was signed last Thursday by over 700 students, including 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 expressed similar disdain over the university’s current healthcare plan.

The full text of the email is below:

April 26, 2012

To the Members of the Georgetown University Community

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:

I write to you regarding Georgetown’s health insurance and contraceptive coverage in our plans.  Many members of our community have expressed different perspectives on this issue.  I am grateful for the respectful ways in which you have shared your opinions.

As you know, like most universities, Georgetown requires that students have health insurance.  Students are not required to purchase their health insurance through Georgetown University and are free to acquire health insurance through a third party. The student plan offered by Georgetown is consistent with our Catholic and Jesuit identity and does not cover prescription contraceptives for birth control.  It does provide coverage for these prescriptions for students who require them for health reasons unrelated to birth control, as determined by a physician.

After thoughtful and careful consideration, we will continue our current practice for contraceptive coverage in our student health insurance for the coming year, as allowed for under the current rules issued by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

There will also be no change to the University’s approach to contraceptive coverage for employees for 2013.

We will be monitoring further regulatory and judicial developments related to the Affordable Care Act.  I hope this is helpful in clarifying a matter of concern to many of you.

You have my very best wishes as we conclude our academic year.

John J. DeGioia


Photo: Flickr

13 Comments on “President DeGioia responds to contraceptive petition, holds status quo

  1. He’s grateful for “respectful ways in which you have shared your opinions.” Not your opinions, mind you – he couldn’t care less what you think. He’s just glad you didn’t yell at him. Yelling really hurts his feelings.

  2. What kind of school is this again? I forgot? Catholic. Jesuit. Sooo kind of MAKES SENSE.

  3. I’m with the second poster here. Students electing to attend Georgetown know that it’s a Catholic university, and with that comes some of the archaic, outdated rules of the Vatican. I find it a little amusing that in some ways Georgetown has knowingly pissed off the Catholic church on a number of occasions with decisions its made, and yet stalwartly stands by this particular matter. But, either way, it’s a private Catholic university offering private health insurance, and it’s within their right to do what the Pope declares to be godly, or whatever.

    All of that being said – it makes me super queasy to see an old white dude talking about my birth control in an open letter to the GU community. Or any old white dude talking about my birth control for that matter, which just keeps flippin happening these days! Shove off.

  4. I wish more people would contemplate why the stance against birth control exists. It’s to respect the sanctity of sex and the dignity of the human person. If you choose to use BC, fine, but at least try to understand the thought and feeling behind the other viewpoint. It can be helpful for good discernment regarding romantic relationships.

  5. I find it troubling that administrators are willing to approve health insurance that covers contraception for themselves and all employees but not for students…and then they have the audacity to state our “Catholic and Jesuit identity” as the reason. I think people on both sides of the debate can agree that’s absurd. (I am personally pro-contraception and anti-hypocrisy.)

  6. All those arguments that follow the “Georgetown is a Catholic institution, and you knew it when you came here” line fail in two ways:

    1) Why are women put into a situation where they have to make a choice between their education and their right to access to contraception?

    2) As explained and proven many times, Georgetown DOES provide four insurance options to its employees (ie faculty, staff). Three out of four of these options DO cover contraception.
    – Given that Georgetown does not contribute financially to student insurance plans,
    – Given that it DOES contribute financially to employees’ insurance plans,
    – Given that employees are free to choose three options that do cover insurance,
    can someone PLEASE explain why on earth we are still discussing the “Christian values” behind this decision? Completely irrelevant. The University’s policies re: employees are very, very contradictory.

  7. @ Oh my

    “1) Why are women put into a situation where they have to make a choice between their education and their right to access to contraception?”

    The university has never interfered with women’s (or men’s for that matter) access to contraception. You are perfectly free to buy all the condoms and pills you want at CVS with your own money. The university health plan will cover the pill for recognized medical ailments with a doctors approval (to which Ms. Fluke’s only response has been ‘talking to my doctor is really awkward’).

    What the university will NOT do is subsidize sexual choices. Isn’t keeping the administration out our sex lives one of the great progressive causes?

    As to your second point, you are correct its hypocritical, but I think opponents of contraception would simply say “You are right, nobody should have their contraception covered.”

  8. Regardless of the actual policy, I’m bothered by DeGioia’s line that students “are free to acquire health insurance through a third party.” I would think that the only reason students would “choose” Georgetown’s plan is that their parents don’t have health insurance that covers them. For students who don’t have coverage, I bet the Georgetown plan is the cheapest/best option. I’m sure that Georgetown’s policy only impacts less affluent students or perhaps students whose parents are free-lancers of some sort and don’t have group health insurance. Not very Catholic to stick the poorer students with the crappy plan, now is it Jacky D?

  9. @Josh Good point. If you have health insurance through your parents, I just remember entering the info into my.georgetown at the beginning of every year. At least among undergrads who are still young enough to qualify for their parents’ insurance, I’m sure nobody “chooses” to be on the Georgetown plan. You’re forced because the school REQUIRES coverage, but you can’t afford anything else.

  10. @@Loving the Word Choice: since when does Catholic=retarded?

  11. With regard to the employee vs. student coverage issue, it’s not necessarily hypocritical, depending on how one conceives of what is offered.

    For employees, insurance is part of their compensation. Employers are not allowed to dictate to employees what they do with their compensation: Georgetown cannot tell its employees what they can or can’t do with their money, or with their transit benefits, or with their retirement plans, or other forms of compensation. This is broadly true, subject to the ministerial exception and some others.

    For students, insurance is an optional service that is offered to them by virtue of their student status. They are not required to make use of it, it is not compensation. The University does not have to offer it at all. Universities, and other organizations, DO get to determine the specifics of what membership benefits they offer.

    That students are required to have some insurance isn’t particularly relevant – it’s just one more cost of/requirement for attendance, like immunizations or proof of housing or various other things.

    Since this is all going to be moot in 2013 anyway when the HHS’s new regulations kick in (assuming we don’t end up with a Romney administration), I can see how the administration would decide that it’s best not to incur the wrath of the Vatican and the Conference of Catholic Bishops over this. Particularly when the number of students on GU-offered insurance is relatively small, the number who cannot afford their own BC of choice is smaller yet, and it is common practice at the Student Health Center and other places to dispense prescriptions for hormonal BC that are officially for things like acne and dysmenorrhea but which the patient is really seeking for BC. Those would be covered under student health insurance, the case of Ms. Fluke’s schoolmate (which the University admitted was a mistake, one that is highly unlikely to be repeated given the national attention) notwithstanding.

    Having said all that, it absolutely has to be stated that this bit of Catholic doctrine is a wrongheaded, counterproductive, and widely flouted anachronism that continues to exist solely because the power structure in the Church is controlled by a small clique of conservative, childless, and frequently misogynist men. The Vatican II committee on this question actually recommended changing the doctrine, but the Pope sided with the minority opinion. The sooner it is consigned to the dustbin of history with numerous other retrograde provisions, the better. That’s not a fight that Georgetown can win, however, or one that can be won at Georgetown. It has to happen on a much larger scale.

  12. I don’t understand this concept of why religious institutions should be allowed any degree of leniency in their labor laws. Why is the fact that Georgetown is affiliated with the Catholic Church a reason to allow it to not abide by the same laws other institutions do? People talk about how we shouldn’t force them to do something they don’t want to, and I say why not? We have standardized labor laws for a reason, they are imposed based on sound logic, and the concept that because we put crosses in rooms would somehow constitute a sufficient justification for a deviation from this is beyond me. Can someone please explain this to me?

  13. @D – This particular instance has to do with student insurance, not employee insurance, so labor laws don’t apply. Religious employers do indeed have to abide by labor laws like the ADA, non-discrimination, etc. Certain exceptions exist, one of which is the ministerial exception, which only applies to religious organization. It basically says that religious entities get to choose their ministers on their own terms, so they do not have to follow these laws because otherwise it would be an unconstitutional restriction on freedom of religion. A Catholic university can’t fire someone from being a football coach for not being Catholic or for violating certain tenets of Catholicism – that’s discrimination. They CAN fire someone from being a priest for not being Catholic or for violating certain tenets of Catholicism – ministers are held to a different standard.

    An organization can try to say that everyone it employs is a minister, like everyone who works inside a LDS Temple, which only Mormons are allowed to enter. But then they have to be open and consistent about it and can’t pick and choose. It also has to have a religious purpose. Lots of case law on this.

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