The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Protecting the University’s right to choose

Matt Cole | Sunday, February 5, 2012

In response to Evan Graham’s letter (“Protecting the right to choose,” Feb. 2), I wish to make the case against the HHS mandate which forces Notre Dame to offer contraception in its health plans.

Mr. Graham is “happy that the right to choose has come full-force to Notre Dame,” but he overlooks its coming is coupled with a much greater suppression of the right to choose.

Two rights are at stake here: first, everyone’s right “to be able to take prescriptive contraceptives if they so desire,” which Mr. Graham champions, and second, the right of a religious institution to act according to the principles of its faith. The HHS mandate violates the second for the sake of the first. Without the mandate, the second is intact and the first mostly unharmed. Considering the second is a core First Amendment right, and the first a hotly disputed branch of the evolving corpus of health care rights, which overrides the other?

The mandate falls to religious liberty even if it is allowed the full force of Mr. Graham’s association of it with the right to contraceptives. But this association is also wrong. Without the mandate, everyone is still free to buy contraceptives. The mandate only makes a relevant difference for a very limited group: those very few people for whom coverage makes the difference as to whether or not they can afford contraceptives and those who are not already covered. Yes, few: Nine out of ten employer plans already cover contraceptives, and 99 percent of women who have had sex have used contraceptives (Guttmacher).

Even employees of conscientiously objecting institutions don’t seem to have much of a problem getting contraceptives at the moment, and the argument for the mandate falls again right there.

Even if I were utterly convinced that the University should offer contraception in its health plans, I could never be happy that the progress embodied by the changing of this policy should come at the price of so crippling a blow to religious liberty.

Matt Cole


Carroll Hall

Feb. 5