Student Health Plans Should Cover Contraception TooFebruary 02, 2012
Women’s health advocates have commended President Obama’s recent decision to require nearly all employers to cover contraceptive services under their health insurance plans. Although it is facing criticism from religious organizations, the administration held firm in not broadening exemptions for employees of churches and other houses of worship. AAUW supports this stance as a critical step toward increasing all women’s access to affordable and comprehensive health care and urges the administration to also protect college students’ access to contraception by ensuring that student health plans are included in the mandate.
During my undergraduate years, it was a tremendous relief to have access to a nonjudgmental and comprehensive women’s health clinic on campus, where I could seek care and contraceptive services when I needed them. I remember watching in the waiting room as fellow classmates picked up birth control for the month or waited to discuss their concerns with doctors who weren’t constrained by an employer’s attitudes about birth control. The doctors’ only concerns were their professional obligations as health care providers. The near-constant stream of patients was proof that I was not the only student who found tremendous comfort in having on-campus access to information, medicine, and doctors I knew I could trust.
Countless women in college depend on student health insurance and yet suffer under plans that don’t cover contraceptives, including those offered by universities that deem any artificial means of preventing pregnancy to be morally wrong. Despite this opposition, a recent survey found that more than 99 percent of women ages 15–44 have used some form of contraception. Providing cost-free birth control coverage would be a welcome financial relief to college students. Their right to comprehensive care must not be compromised by an institution’s objection to the treatment they need.
It is clear that the White House will continue to feel backlash on the new contraceptive requirements, but that is no reason to exclude student health plans from the new standards. Ensuring students’ access to preventive treatments like contraception is not only good policy but also a welcome protection at a time when women’s access to reproductive health care is increasingly under fire.
This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Intern Julie Seger.