Last February, the Department of Health and Human Services released an interim final rule stating that student health plans would be treated as individual health insurance plans, meaning that they would have to cover the women’s preventive health services. Let’s translate that out of “legal-ese:” the Department will require student health insurance plans (not student health centers) to cover preventive services for women, such as contraception, screening for sexually transmitted infections, and screening for interpersonal and domestic violence, without co-pays or deductibles. This is a huge gain for young women who obtain health insurance through their college or university because, and don’t let me shock you too much here, women, including those in college and graduate school, use contraception. It may be of no surprise to you, but college women who are sexually active may not want to get pregnant while studying to become a doctor, a teacher, a biologist, or a mathematician. And sexually active college men may not want their partners to get pregnant either. You may be aware that women also use contraception as a remedy to a range of medical problems: cramps, acne, polysystic ovarian syndrome, and the list goes on. You probably just said to yourself “Clearly, what’s your point?”
The point is that college women, like all other women, should be able to have access to this important preventive service. There should be no exemptions for religious universities. Religious colleges don’t require you to be of their faith when you go to their schools, and they appear to be just happy to take your tuition money plus a fee for health insurance coverage no matter what religion you are (and even if you don’t have a religion). If a school health plan can refuse to cover contraception based on its own religious values, a young woman’s contraceptive decisions are controlled by her school, not by her. I’m not OK with that, and I hope you aren’t either.