On April 5, SLU’s SGA passed a resolution recommending that the Student Health Center increase student access to birth control. While the SGA does not have enforcement power over the Health Center, we believe that this resolution is an important indicator of students’ views and that the SGA should continue to push the University to expand access to contraception.
Although SLU is a Catholic university whose policy is against premarital sex, the University should not force its students to adhere to Catholic doctrines. As a university, the institution’s main role in the lives of students is not to influence their private affairs. The school may be a private institution with a religious affiliation, but its focus is largely academic. The United States is becoming increasingly secular, and the University should adapt to this changing reality. SLU has a large social justice presence and should concentrate on how this social justice aspect aligns with the Jesuit mission.
In addition, it is unfair for it to enforce some Catholic doctrines but not others. There are many other rules that the Catholic Church has for the followers of the Catholic faith, but SLU students do not have to follow these rules during their time at the institution. For example, SLU still serves meat on Fridays during Lent despite rules against consumption of meat on these days.
Moreover, students may receive hormonal contraception from the Student Health Center if the medication is being used as a menstrual aid. Because of this exception, students may still use birth control even if their intention is to use it to prevent pregnancy. If students want birth control badly enough, then they may lie in order to achieve that end. The result of SLU’s policy — if students indeed lie to receive contraception — is immoral behavior among students despite the University’s intention to encourage what it believes to be moral Catholic doctrine. For the Catholic Church, premarital sex may be immoral, but so is lying about why one needs a prescription.
These lies also may have bigger consequences for students. When they lie about their medical records, they may risk unexpected health complications. These health risks are much lower when doctors prescribe patients contraception based on accurate information, but when students need to lie to receive birth control, the risks grow. This process of requesting and being prescribed birth control should be transparent and honest, not secretive and deceitful. In order to show that the University prioritizes women’s health, SLU should engage the SGA in conversation about this subject.
Other Jesuit universities have been involved in similar conversations, including Georgetown University, Loyola University Chicago and Fordham University. Student groups and activists on each campus have urged their schools to increase access to contraception. Last fall, a group of students at Loyola protested through Students for Reproductive Justice (SRJ), which is an unregistered student organization. The students distributed hundreds of condoms and informational packets while demonstrating. Ellie Molise, an SRJ member at Loyola, also claimed that there were people she knew at the college who lied about having health problems in order to obtain birth control.
Students at other Jesuit universities across the country have the same concerns that SLU students do regarding access to birth control. SLU has the opportunity to listen to its students and provide health care services that other Jesuit universities will not. SLU has the opportunity to recognize that its students are mature enough to conduct their private affairs.
SLU students, who have to buy health insurance either privately or through the University, should be able to purchase birth control for whatever reason they provide. They should not have to make up something about their medical record that necessitates that they receive contraception.
The University has been inconsistent in their enforcement of other Catholic doctrines. Although its Jesuit roots are important, the University should reconsider its policy on contraception.