An Open Letter to the President of Georgetown University on the Battle Over Contraceptive Coverage

See all our coverage of the 2012 Contraceptive Mandate here.

Mr. John J. DeGioia

President, Georgetown University

204 Healy Hall

37th and O Sts, NW

Washington, DC 20057


Dear Mr. DeGioia:

As a graduate of Georgetown University and advocate for women, I write to express my horror with the actions of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on the matter of contraceptive coverage for students, employees and dependents of religiously-affiliated institutions, including my beloved alma mater. I write you for the first time after years of comprehensive and thorough disagreement with the all-male Catholic hierarchy’s view of a subordinate, secondary role for women — in the church, and under the law.

Nearly every woman in this country will use a contraceptive during her lifetime, including 98 percent of Catholic women. The bishops have already secured a birth control refusal loophole for churches and religious institutions. Catholic churches already can refuse to provide health insurance that offers contraceptive coverage. At issue is whether to create another birth control refusal loophole, this time for religiously-affiliated institutions, including Georgetown. Doing so could take contraceptive coverage away from three million women.

As you surely know, The New York Times published an article titled “Ruling on Contraception Draws Battle Lines at Catholic Colleges” on January 29. In that story, an unnamed recent Georgetown law graduate shared that she was prescribed birth control pills to treat polycystic ovary syndrome. As Georgetown doesn’t offer contraceptive coverage for students, her choice was to pay for her pills out of pocket. When she could no longer afford to pay more than $100 each month, she stopped filling the prescription and developed a large cyst that led to surgical removal of an entire ovary.

The same article also quoted a Georgetown law professor openly wishing Catholic institutions would ‘have more open conversation’ about bans on birth control. I am asking you directly to initiate that conversation within the Georgetown community, as well as with the bishops who claim to speak on the behalf of women students, employees and our dependents.

A majority in this country believe students, employees and dependents of religiously affiliated institutions should offer contraceptive coverage, including a majority of the employees at Catholic hospitals and universities. Respectfully, a Georgetown student taking a birth control pill is not an assault on religious freedom in society. This graduate recommends her beloved community not entrust the important matter of a woman’s health to an all-male Catholic hierarchy that pronounces pedophilia and the ordination of women priests as equally ‘grave threats.’ It seems more appropriate to open this matter to the perspectives of students themselves. I am hopeful you will do so.


Erin Matson

Action Vice President, National Organization for Women

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