Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Everyday Science | Georgetown, Treat Birth Control as Healthcare


Georgetown University has changed since the university’s founding in 1789, but one quality has remained true: if you want to access contraceptives, you are looking at an uphill battle. 

Georgetown does not prescribe hormonal contraceptive prescriptions for purely contraceptive purposes, according to the Student Health Services website. Unpacking how various forms of birth control work — and considering the public health consequences of unwanted pregnancy — makes it clear that Georgetown has a responsibility to prioritize students’ health and safety over its centuries-old Catholic ties. Students should demand better from a university that advocates for care for the whole person. 

Students who are sexually active and want to be on birth control to prevent pregnancy cannot get help from Georgetown unless they cite medical conditions such as acne, irregular periods, heavy periods, cramps and polycystic ovary syndrome. 

If you try to avoid the roadblocks that Student Health Services set up by getting a prescription from another provider, you cannot get it filled at the closest pharmacy to the university: MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. 

Given that Georgetown is staunchly against abortion rights, it seems counterintuitive that Georgetown is also against providing birth control, as this rejects both preventative and downstream measures. Georgetown is a safe space for anti-abortion rights activists, annually hosting the largest student-run anti-abortion conference in the United States, the Cardinal O’ Connor Conference on Life.

Georgetown follows the long tradition of the Catholic Church condemning birth control. The Catholic Church banned condoms and other forms of birth control in 1930 on the grounds that interfering with male sperm was to interfere with God’s will — and therefore is a sin. The Catholic Church considers the purpose of sex to be exclusively for procreation; therefore, it is understood that there is no need to prevent pregnancy.

Although I understand that Georgetown is a Catholic institution that wants to preserve its tradition and values, there are other ways that Georgetown has modified the Catholic Church’s teachings in favor of the health, safety and well-being of its student population. 

While being gay is still heavily stigmatized in the Catholic Church, Georgetown has created and promoted an LGBTQ resource center. Georgetown has the means to make an exception for women’s bodily autonomy and freedom of choice, too. 

I can reconcile the fact that going to a Catholic institution means accepting some of the Catholic Church’s beliefs as a part of daily life, but the choice to withhold birth control is irresponsible.

But let me be perfectly clear: hormonal contraceptives are not abortion. 

The pill, the most popular option of birth control, works by preventing ovulation and thickening cervical mucus, both of which act to prevent sperm from joining an egg. There are different types of pills, mainly the combination pill which contains estrogen and progestin, and the “mini pill,” which contains only progestin. 

These pills, as well as other methods like the implant or intrauterine device (IUD), function by preventing a sperm from ever joining an egg. Conception does not happen when birth control works, meaning there is no way that birth control could act as an abortifacient. 

Even an emergency contraceptive like Plan B is not the same as an abortion. Plan B acts to prevent an egg from being released and stops a fertilized egg from joining the womb. It is also worth noting that only one in four fertilized eggs attaches to the uterine wall, even if birth control is not used.  

If you understand this and still hold that Georgetown should deny students birth control on religious grounds, I implore you to consider the moral implications of denying students birth control from a public health standpoint.

Teen or unintended pregnancy is associated with negative health problems, including an increase in maternal-infantile morbidity and mortality, loss of self-esteem, depression, anxiety, familial conflicts, dropping out of school, interruption of life project, premature incorporation into the labor force and maintenance of the poverty cycle.

It might be easy to write off Georgetown’s stance as a relic of history, or something that has simply been overlooked. However, the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is a not-so-subtle reminder that the influence of the Catholic Church can impede public health. 

Just as wealthy people can go to different states or pay out-of-pocket for abortions, wealthy students will be more likely to have the financial resources and health literacy abilities to find birth control elsewhere. In an institution that prides itself on creating equal opportunities, Georgetown is throwing its hands in the air when it comes to protecting its most vulnerable students.  

Georgetown has the resources to prevent unintended pregnancy, yet it declines to implement new policy. This is a very conscious choice that sends a loud and clear message to female students: We have control over your bodily autonomy. 

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