As the national debate on policies governing insurance coverage of contraceptives continues, H*yas for Choice took to Red Square Monday to express support for more accessible birth control.
H*yas for Choice and Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington piled $600 worth of ramen noodles in the square to represent the amount that the average American woman currently spends on contraceptives every year.
“We wanted to do something that, you know, hits home to college students,” Planned Parenthood Public Affairs Associate Gabrielle Martinez said.
The demonstration came after President Obama altered his administration’s position on mandated contraceptive coverage Friday in a compromise that has been met with mixed reviews on campus.
According to the announcement, religiously affiliated univerisities and institutions will no longer be required to pay for contraceptive coverage, though any independent insurance provider these groups contract with will still be required to provide coverage.
The decision followed a firestorm of political and media backlash to an earlier announcement from Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, which stated that almost all providers of insurance — religiously affiliated or otherwise — would be required to provide coverage for birth control in their plans.
The revised policy means that Georgetown is unlikely to see any major change to its health care policies because the university already provides employees with two healthcare options. The first plan, which is underwritten by the university, does not provide contraceptive coverage, while the second option allows employees to subscribe to a national plan administered by Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Contraceptives will not be covered for the minority of students who subscribe to the university’s health insurance under the new mandate.
For students who subscribe to private insurance plans, carriers will be required to cover contraceptives if they did not already do so.
Besides piling a pyramid of ramen noodle boxes in Red Square, members of H*yas for Choice collected petition signatures and Valentine’s-themed messages to support the mandate Monday. Last week, group members tabled in Red Square to ask students to sign thank you cards to the president.
According to H*yas for Choice President Ashley Bradylyons (SFS ’12), they collected about 300 cards, although Planned Parenthood workers were asked to leave campus by the Department of Public Safety last week because they were not students.
Despite the incident, Martinez felt that backlash against their recent events on campus had been minimal.
“You can’t really get mad at that, we’re talking about women’s health,” she said.
“When we were here before, I was dressed as a human pill pack … a priest walked by and laughed at me and was like ‘nice costume,'” she added. “And that’s all that we can ask for, that people be open.”
Critics, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, criticized Obama’s annoucement as political manuevering. They argue that in forcing private insurance companies to cover contraceptives, the federal government is still placing the burden on religious institutions who pay or contribute to their employee’s private insurance.
“Forcing plans to cover abortifacients violates existing federal conscience laws. Therefore, we [call] for the rescission of the mandate altogether,” the group said in a statement. “Coverage is still provided as a part of the objecting employer’s plan, financed in the same way as the rest of the coverage offered by the objecting employer. This raises serious moral concerns.”
University administrators will not comment on the policy until the official regulations are released because details of the plan are still unclear.