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Sandra Fluke and Georgetown’s ‘Neutrality’

President DeGioia Clarifies University’s Policy on Contraception

BY Joan Frawley Desmond

Register Senior Editor

May 20-June 2, 2012 Issue | Posted 5/11/12 at 1:07 PM

 

WASHINGTON — Sandra Fluke’s crusade to reverse the anti-contraception policies of Catholic universities has made life tough for Georgetown University’s president, John DeGioia, who has found himself besieged on all sides.

Over the past month, Fluke was invited to a public university forum to discuss her views, and DeGioia has received a petition with 750 names demanding that the university reverse its policy of denying contraception in the student health plan.

But he has also received a letter from more than 100 students and alumni requesting that he hold his ground and publicly correct what the signatories see as the mischaracterization of the university’s — and by extension the Church’s — stance on contraception.

Fluke’s impassioned attack on the university’s student-insurance coverage before Democratic House leaders in February has made the Washington, D.C., campus a high-profile forum for debating the federal contraception mandate. The ensuing discussion, as well as Georgetown’s commencement invitation to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, has revived past battles over the direction of an elite Jesuit university which, critics predict, will soon be indistinguishable from its Ivy League counterparts.

DeGioia has not responded publicly to Fluke’s charges, and her critics say that has allowed her skewed presentation of the university’s policies to go unchallenged.

In a letter to the university community dated April 26 and released several hours after this Register story was posted online, DeGioia clarified several points raised by Fluke, though he did not mention her by name.

“Students are not required to purchase their health insurance through Georgetown University and are free to acquire health insurance through a third party,” read the letter. DeGioia added that the university plan “does provide coverage for these prescriptions for students who require them for health reasons unrelated to birth control, as determined by a physician.”

He said the university would not change its “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,” read the statement.

But in an acknowledgement of the uncertainty posed by a future Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the new health bill, he noted that Georgetown “will be monitoring further regulatory and judicial developments related to the Affordable Care Act.”

A number of Georgetown alumni and conservative commentators have publicly disputed Fluke’s account of students who suffered serious health problems as a result of the university’s contraception policy, but DeGioia held back. Yet, in an April 10 letter to Georgetown University law professor Gregg Bloche, who sought the formation of a committee to reassess the health-plan policy, DeGioia implicitly challenged a number of Fluke’s public assertions, though he does not mention her name in the document.

The Register requested and received a copy of this letter, first cited in a Washington Post article. The story did not disclose the full text of the letter.

Similar to the letter he wrote to the Georgetown community, DeGioia noted that students at the law school are not required to purchase their insurance through the university health plan and thus have access to plans that provide contraception coverage.

“Students are free to purchase health insurance through a third-party provider. For example, Georgetown Law students may participate in an insurance plan provided by the American Bar Association,” he stated. He also confirmed that the university’s plan “does provide coverage for prescription contraception for students who require it for health reasons unrelated to birth control, as determined by their physician.”

“The student health-insurance plan offered through Georgetown is consistent with our Catholic and Jesuit identity and does not cover and has never covered prescription contraceptive birth control.”

DeGioia also referred to “conversations” between the administration and “senior leaders and students” from the law school that were conducted over the previous summer and addressed the same issue.

“As was stated then, we do not intend to change Georgetown’s long-standing practice of excluding contraception coverage for the purposes of birth control from its student health-insurance offerings, unless explicitly required to do so by law. Accordingly, I do not think it fitting to create a committee to consider this policy decision.”

Did Sandra Fluke drive that discussion? DeGioia was not available for comment and thus could not provide further context for his remarks. Nor was he able to answer whether he had future plans to address the confusion generated by Fluke’s remarks.

Read more at NCRegister.com.