When it comes to health insurance women have historically had it very rough. Between maternity care and preventive care screenings the average premium for women has been much more expensive than mens’. Fortunately, new legislation is being put in place to even these premiums, which is long overdue.
Included in this new legislation is a federal mandate that all insurance plans must cover contraceptives. However, as it might be expected, many have been very offended by this. A few businesses have begun to file lawsuits, claiming that the mandate infringes on their religious beliefs.
One of the most recent figures to enter the controversy is Notre Dame University. The private Catholic University has also claimed that the federal mandate violates their right to practice religion as well as inhibits their ability to encourage students not to use birth control.
The debate as to whether or not Notre Dame should or shouldn’t provide contraception under their health insurance is a difficult one. It is essentially a case of religious rights versus individual rights and the fact that Notre Dame is not only a private university, but a Catholic university, makes the situation even more difficult.
That being said, if Notre Dame accepts federal funding, should it not abide by federal law? While it seems harsh, it doesn’t seem right to be able to accept thousands of dollars in grants and funding and yet refuse to abide by federal mandates.
Besides, it’s not as if the mandate is forcing Notre Dame to physically distribute contraceptives on their campus. I’m sure that there are many Catholic students at Notre Dame that will still refrain from using them. The mandate simply requires that Notre Dame covers contraceptives in their insurance.
It’s important to remember that many women use contraceptives for reasons other than birth control. Contraceptives have been linked to aiding several health risks, including some types of cancer. It doesn’t seem fair to limit students and employees that attend Notre Dame from taking advantage of these health benefits.
Universities tend to be very diverse environments, and Notre Dame is no exception. As would be expected, there are some students who attend Notre Dame that are not Catholic. While it was of course their choice to be a member of the University, Notre Dame cannot expect all of its students to adopt their beliefs.
This also goes for employees. From professors to janitors, each of these individuals should be entitled to their own beliefs and the right to privacy when it comes to their health care. Like wages, health care is a form of compensation that Notre Dame gives to its employees. The University doesn’t tell its employees how to spend their paychecks, so why should it tell them how to use their health care?
Health care is a private, individual matter. Being such a diverse institution, and one that utilizes federal funding, Notre Dame must respect the beliefs of the individuals that attend the University. They have every right to actively discourage the use of contraceptives, but ultimately the decision needs to come from the individual. While there are several constitutional rights that each side could pull to support their argument, ultimately the rights of the individual should be the most important.
Nick Ulferts is a junior English education major and columnist for The Vidette. Any questions or comments regarding his column can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.