Students are fighting for their right to birth control. Source: Shutterstock.
Students are fighting for their right to birth control. Source:

The Catholic University of Notre Dame’s recent decision to cut birth control coverage has sparked outrage from staff and students alike.

The decision followed The Trump administration’s ruling that contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act would be limited to those with medical conditions only. The university will now only provide birth control to students and faculty who are prescribed it for medical reasons.

Students Emily Garrett and Molly Burton were both less than impressed with the decision.

In an article for Motto, Garrett and Burton claim they are often asked: “You knew Notre Dame was Catholic – why did you come?”

They argue contraception is “basic healthcare”. Their decision, nearly four years ago, to enrol at Notre Dame did not factor in the loss of this right.

“Our decision to attend this school was based on wanting to receive a nationally-ranked education, follow the legacy of our parents and to be part of the Fighting Irish family.”

The girls were raised as Catholics and assumed “that living on a Catholic campus would not be much different than living in a modern Catholic home – especially because of Notre Dame’s advertised acceptance of all faiths.”

Garrett and Buton claim their early experiences of accessing contraceptive healthcare on campus were troubling. The new rollback on birth control will make it even more difficult for young women to access contraception.

The pair experienced a long-winded approval process to have their birth control prescriptions refilled. During this process they had to provide physicians’ notes explaining why the contraceptive pills were necessary. The women were granted the pills only after it was determined they were needed to treat heavy and painful periods.

“During our campus visits, they promised us a culture of acceptance and diversity,” they wrote. “We believed that we would never be forced to take part in any of the Catholic traditions or teachings that run contrary to our personal choices or beliefs.”

Kate Rochat, another student at the university, made CBS News headlines when she spoke out about her fears of losing birth control coverage.

“At this point in my life I don’t have a disposable income to go out and seek out contraceptives or a private insurance provider,” Rochat said. “Coming forward about such personal matters is a really scary prospect [and] a lot of women on campus feel this is an unfair intrusion into our private rights.

“I respect my university’s adherence to Catholicism but I also think that no woman should have to choose between her serious medical needs and her university’s religion.”

The debate is heated. Notre Dame and other religious institutions claim they are adhering to their faith. The students, however, feel let down.

A group of students led a protest outside the university’s main building, The Golden Dome. The fight seems futile but the students have hope. A petition is also circulating, encouraging students, staff and alumni to sign to express their disapproval of the university’s decision.

“We’re not trying to force our university to betray its own beliefs,” said Garrett and Burton. “We merely want Notre Dame to respect our bodily autonomy and not hinder our access to reproductive healthcare.”

The women assert: “Birth control is not an issue of religious freedom, as Notre Dame is claiming. Instead, it’s a basic and important form of health care that millions rely on.

“Catholicism is not an excuse to ransack our healthcare.”

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