Student Bodies: Catholic Universities and Health Care for Young Women

By Patricia Miller and Celina Chelala
Winter 2000-01

Since Georgetown University was founded in 1789 as the nation’s first Catholic college, Catholic colleges and universities have played a highly visible role in higher education in the US Today, there are 238 Catholic universities and colleges in the United States, accounting for approximately six percent of the institutions of higher learning.1 In 1999, enrollment at Catholic two- and four-year colleges in the US was just under 700,000.2

In the past decade, a debate has raged about just how “Catholic” Catholic universities should be. From issues such as removing crucifixes in classrooms to banning prochoice student organizations, Catholic universities have been executing a delicate balancing act between the secular world of higher education and the fact that Catholic institutions of higher learning still fall under the Vatican’s authority. The most dramatic example of the tension between these two worlds is Ex Corde Ecclesiae, an “apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education” issued by Pope John Paul II on August 15, 1990. The document was widely viewed as an attempt by the Vatican to reassert its authority over Catholic universities in the US, especially regarding adherence to the official theology of the church. The US Catholic bishops and the Vatican spent the better part of the 1990s ironing out a working version of the document, but the final result leaves no doubt that the Vatican is eager for Catholic universities to conform to Catholic teaching at all levels: academically and in the areas of student life.

For Catholics for a Free Choice, which spent the better part of the 1990s tracking the Catholic church’s growing encroachment on the US healthcare system and the simultaneous propagation of church-related doctrine on the availability of reproductive healthcare services, this reassertion of Vatican control raised the question of the availability of women’s healthcare services on Catholic campuses.

This is an important question because the majority of colleges and universities in the US provide some type of on-campus health service. The American College Health Association estimates that there are about 1,500 health centers at the nation’s 2,320 four-year colleges and universities. Two-year colleges are significantly less likely to have health centers, as most have largely commuter student populations.3

In order to assess the availability of women’s health services at Catholic campuses in the US, CFFC designed and implemented a two-pronged study. The first element consisted of a phone survey of every four-year Catholic university in the US to determine if it had a health center and what type of women’s health services it offers. The second part of the survey consisted of a survey of female college students at 20 geographically and demographically representative Catholic colleges and universities in the US to assess how they received their health coverage, their awareness and assessment of women’s health services offered on campus and their alternative sources of care. The surveys were conducted by female undergraduates recruited by CFFC to participate in the study. Three surveys were attempted at each of the universities. A minimum of two surveys needed to be completed at each university in order for the school to be included in the study. The final survey response rate was 51 female undergraduates at 18 Catholic universities across the country.


Reproductive Health Services: A Critical Need for College-Age Women

Reproductive health services are critical for college-age women. For many young adults, college coincides with the point in life where sexual maturation has been reached and sexual activity begins. Many college-age women are exploring their sexuality for the first time, entering into their first serious relationships and developing a personal sexual ethic. At the same time, the familiar boundaries of home and parents have been replaced by a peer community and living arrangements that allow for previously unknown personal freedom. In this environment, the need for reproductive health information and services is great. Lifelong patterns of responsible sexual behavior can be established. Unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases can be avoided.

Unfortunately, no substantive national tracking of the availability of specific reproductive health services and sexuality-related health education programs at the college level has been conducted in the United States, so it is not possible to make assertions about the general availability of these services for this population. Most colleges offer some type of health center and health education programs. Large universities tend to have more comprehensive centers that offer primary care and a variety of well-developed health education programs, while mid-sized and smaller universities often have smaller health centers that have limited staffing-usually a nurse or a nurse practitioner-and provide only basic services like immunizations and treatment for simple medical problems. These centers usually refer to other providers in the community for more complicated health problems.

And yet the need for reproductive health programs and education is acute. Unplanned pregnancy is a major problem among college-age women. Unplanned pregnancy is highest among women aged 18 and 19-the ages at which most college-attending women would be freshman or sophomores-with 105 unplanned pregnancies per 1,000 women. Almost half of these pregnancies end in abortion. Rates of unplanned pregnancy and abortion remain high for women throughout their early twenties.4 Women aged 20-24 obtain 33% of abortions, accounting for the single largest age group of women who have abortions. Over 40% of women of college age who obtain abortions reported that they were not using contraception at the time their pregnancy occurred.5

Interestingly, an analysis by the Alan Guttmacher Institute found that women age 20 and over who are enrolled in school are 15% more likely to have an abortion than women who are not enrolled in school.6

Sexually transmitted diseases are also a major problem for the college-age population. Two-thirds of all new cases of STDs occur in people between the ages of 15-24; by the age of 24 at least one in three sexually active people will have contracted an STD.6 The cumulative three-year incidence of Human Papilloma Virus-the most common STD among sexually active young populations-among college age students was found to be 43% in one study. Between 3% and 48% of sexually active young women requesting routine care at family planning, prenatal or college health clinics test positive for trichomoniasis, which causes vaginal infections.7 A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Glamour magazine found that most men and women of reproductive age seriously underestimate how common STDs are as well as their chances of contracting an STD, reinforcing the need for education about STDs and STD prevention in the critical period of early adulthood.8

HIV/AIDS is another critical issue for the college-age population. The American College Health Association notes that: “In a campus environment many students encounter new independence, self-determination, and strong peer pressure to adopt certain behaviors. For some students, an uncertain sense of identity and self-esteem can further complicate decision making. Experimentation with sexual behaviors and/or drug use may put college and university students at a greater risk of infection.”.

A recent study confirmed that many university students experiment with the kind of high-risk behavior that puts them at risk for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as unplanned pregnancy. Students at a large Midwestern university were questioned about their sexual practices by the Kinsey Institute in 1991. Eighty percent of the males and 73% of the females were sexually experienced. Men reported an average of 8 sex partners, while females reported an average of 6.1. Seventeen percent of the sexually experienced men and 18% of sexually experienced women had engaged in anal sex. Eighteen percent of the men and 12% of the women said they were in sexually nonexclusive relationships-these students reported a significantly larger number of lifetime sexual partners (15.5) and a larger number of sexual partners in the past year (just over 5).10

The Kinsey study found that approximately one-third of the students who engaged in vaginal or anal intercourse in the past year had failed to use contraceptives or prophylactics or had utilized a method of contraception that offers little protection from STDs or unplanned pregnancy (i.e., withdrawal or rhythm). One in five males and one in three females reported that they had been infected with an STD such as genital warts, chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, pubic lice, syphilis or trichomoniasis.11


Health Insurance for College Students

College students can receive their health insurance in one of two ways: dependent status on their parents’ health insurance (which most plans allow until age 21) or directly through a university-sponsored plan. While large public universities may offer comprehensive health insurance, many small and mid-size universities offer only basic major medical policies for students who have no other coverage. These policies cover hospitalizations and medical emergencies, but often do not cover basic preventive care or prescription medication. The failure of many universities to offer more comprehensive coverage, despite the decline in health insurance coverage in the general population, suggests that many universities still clearly assume that parents will provide coverage for undergraduate students. Currently, Massachusetts is the only state that requires college students to have health insurance. Statistics from Massachusetts indicate that about 30% of college students receive health insurance through a university-sponsored plan.12

Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of students we interviewed-78%-said they received their health insurance through their parent’s health insurance plans. Only four students relied on university-based health insurance as their primary form of health insurance, four carried both their parents’ insurance and a university plan and three subscribed to University Health Insurance, a plan offered nationally to college students. One student did not have health insurance.


Availability of Reproductive Health Services at Catholic Universities

Of the 238 Catholic universities nationwide, we identified a total of 191 four-year universities. Of these, 166 (84%) responded to our survey, and out of this number, a total of 133 said they have a health center on campus. Those universities without a campus health center tend to be smaller schools or schools with a predominantly commuter population. The majority of universities without a health center refer students off-campus, usually through the student life office or the dean of students, for health services. Students are most often referred to a nearby hospital, a local health clinic or a private doctor’s office, depending on the student’s health insurance. In addition, many students who have their own health insurance return home for care.

A slight majority of those universities with a health center on campus identify as having comprehensive, full-service centers versus limited-service centers. Sixty-seven of the health centers defined themselves as full-service, while 66 defined themselves as limited service. Limited-service health centers tend to be nurse-directed centers (some with limited physician hours) that provide primary care, immunizations, and referrals to physicians off-campus for more comprehensive health services. Although the majority do not provide prescriptions, most will provide over-the-counter medications. Full service health centers are often staffed by nurses and/or nurse practitioners as well as part-time physicians, and tend to provide a full range of preventive and primary care, including some women’s health services. They also address mental health concerns and provide on-site counseling.

The majority of both limited-service and full-service university health centers provide health education programs and immunizations and treat similar ailments, including colds, upper respiratory infections, allergies, urinary tract infections, gastrointestinal disorders, mononucleosis, and minor sports injuries and accidents.


Women’s Health Services

Well over half of all Catholic universities do not provide comprehensive women’s healthcare services. A total of 57 (43% of the total surveyed) Catholic university health centers provide Pap smears and 52 (39%) provide annual gynecological exams. As a general rule, provision of comprehensive women’s health services is directly correlated to whether or not the health center is a full-service center. While 67% of comprehensive health centers provide Pap smears and or annual exams, only 11% of centers with limited services do so.

When asked if they provided breast cancer screening, 49% of Catholic university health centers said they provide non-mammography screenings during physical exams. Self-breast exams are also emphasized through the use of shower cards in the dorms. Forty-two percent of the universities said they offer HIV screenings and 44% offer STD screenings on campus. The majority of health centers that do not provide HIV and STD screenings on campus refer out to the local health department, to the local STD clinic or to Planned Parenthood to ensure anonymous testing. Seventy-eight percent of the health centers also said they provide STD prevention education with methods ranging from the use of pamphlets and bulletin boards to disseminate information to one-on-one talks with students and workshops in the residence halls. One healthcare provider we spoke with mentioned that she had to be careful about discussing contraception because the university does not want to contradict the church, but that STD prevention education provided an opportunity to address safe sex practices. Another provider was told that she could distribute condoms, but only within an educational context such as during a discussion of STD prevention.

Access to contraception is extremely limited on Catholic university campuses. A total of 23 Catholic university health centers-17% of the 133 health centers interviewed-said they provide contraception. Only two universities provide a full range of contraception including birth control pills, emergency contraception, condoms, and Depo Provera, although they refer out for IUDs and cervical caps. Eighteen Catholic health centers provide oral contraception only. Of these 18, two will only refill oral contraception prescriptions written elsewhere and five will provide oral contraception only for “non-contraceptive” medical purposes. An additional 28 schools said they would refer students to local clinics or physicians for contraception; six specified Planned Parenthood.

A total of 10 universities–eight percent of the total–said they provide condoms-either through the health center, through peer educators or RAs (resident assistants). An additional two universities said they provide contraception, but would not provide details about what types they offer or under what circumstances they make it available.

Finally, only three universities-two percent of the total interviewed-said they provide emergency contraception, making this crucial reproductive health service the service least likely to be provided by Catholic university health centers. Emergency contraceptive pills provide a short, high dose of combined estrogen and progestin, or progestin alone, and are 75% effective in preventing pregnancy within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse. Emergency contraceptive pills work prior to implantation and therefore are not considered an abortifacient by the National Institutes of Health, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Women’s Association. Given the high rates of unplanned pregnancy in the college-age population, emergency contraception can play an important role in reducing unplanned pregnancies and abortion.

Clearly the provision of contraception is a contentious issue on Catholic university campuses, with healthcare providers torn between responsibility to the students and Catholic doctrine. Some providers clearly feel their obligation to the health of the students outweighs doctrinal concerns. As one health provider asserted: “For me, the issue of AIDS far exceeds the issue of condoms.” But other providers indicated that they felt their ethics were being compromised. As one said: “I think it’s time for people to start screaming because this [restrictions on what can be discussed and provided regarding contraception] is affecting professional ethics.” Others reluctantly come down on side of the institution: “We’re not the church, we’re not theologians, we’re physicians and we’re interested in the students-we’re not going to withhold information. But out of respect for the institution we would not provide it [contraception],” said one provider.

At the same time many ban contraception and even counseling about contraceptive methods, Catholic universities attempt to provide sexual education programs. But the prohibitions on discussing contraception raise questions about how effective these programs can be. Eighty-three of the health centers we spoke with-63%-said they hold educational programs that cover sexuality education and/or HIV/AIDS prevention. Most of the programs are held directly in the residence halls and many are provided by RAs or peer educators. Programs are also conducted by the health centers in collaboration with other campus organizations such as student groups, women’s centers or counseling and wellness centers. Four of the universities we contacted provide programs specifically for new freshman that include coverage of sexuality issues and HIV/AIDS prevention. In addition, a few universities incorporate sexuality education into their academic curriculum. The majority of university health centers that do not hold programs said they find that students prefer to meet one-on-one rather than attend workshops or seminars. Others said that staffing or budget limitations prevent them from conducting educational programs or student outreach.

An overwhelming majority of the university health centers we contacted–99%–said they make a wide variety of health education pamphlets available to students. Many of the pamphlets are from the American College Health Association and cover topics including STDs, HIV/AIDS, abstinence, healthy relationships, date rape, domestic violence, breast cancer, eating disorders, depression, stress management, alcohol and drug abuse and smoking cessation. A total of 10 health centers mentioned that they carry pamphlets on contraception, while 11 health centers said they provide pamphlets on abstinence and four said that they offer pamphlets on both birth control and abstinence. Only one university said they provide information on natural family planning.

Sixty-three percent of the university health centers reported that they offer counseling for students with unplanned pregnancies. And an additional nine percent refer students to the campus counseling center for abortion counseling.

Twenty-four providers specified that they would discuss all options with students with an unplanned pregnancy. One healthcare provider told us, “As a healthcare provider I feel an obligation to the student to discuss all options.” Another said: “We do choice counseling. We will give some information about abortion services. We also give information regarding adoptions, keeping the baby…we try to work it out with them.” Another health provider explained that she discusses unplanned pregnancies from a “health perspective” as well as a “Catholic perspective.”

Twenty-four providers specified that they would only discuss options for unplanned pregnancy that are in agreement with Catholic doctrine. One provider said, “We can’t force anyone to not have an abortion, but we tell them that we think it’s morally objectionable.” A few of these providers felt that in talking with the student and providing financial as well as emotional support the student would choose to keep the baby.

Some of the healthcare providers we spoke with indicated that they feel that students are ultimately responsible for making the final decision regarding their pregnancies and are uncomfortable imposing their or the school’s moral views on students. One health provider told us: “Students are the top priority. I feel like if I censor information from students I’m imposing my views or the institution’s views on them.” Another provider said: “We feel that students have to make up their own minds-we can’t push our ideas and I wouldn’t want to.” One nurse told us: “It’s very difficult being a nurse and being a Catholic. I always try to give them one or two alternative services to provide unbiased information.”

Some providers who chose to remain within the Catholic tradition also attempt to steer students to more comprehensive counseling. One healthcare provider said: “I tell them [students] I can’t give them complete information so make sure [they] get the complete information.”

Students with unplanned pregnancies are referred by healthcare providers to a variety of community agencies, depending on the student’s decision about pregnancy, their health insurance and the university’s policy regarding abortion and contraception referrals. Fifteen schools said they refer students to both Planned Parenthood and centers that do not provide abortions. Thirty-three schools would refer to Planned Parenthood and 34 would only refer to organizations such as Birthright that assist women with unwanted pregnancies in bringing them to term. Many also said they would refer students to a local gynecologist or physician. A few centers, however, said they were not allowed (by the administration) to refer to Planned Parenthood or another agency that offered abortion services. One healthcare provider stated: “I feel extremely hobbled. I let other professionals field this issue. I feel like it’s a cop-out, but it puts me in a strange position as a healthcare professional to dance around these issues.”


Students’ Knowledge of and Access to Reproductive Health Services

Our survey of female college undergraduates revealed not only a critical lack of women’s health services on college campuses, but a shocking lack of knowledge about the availability of on-campus women’s health services by the female undergraduates themselves. For example, of the 51 students interviewed, six said contraceptives were available on their campuses and 30 said they were unavailable, which would be expected given the Catholic church’s prohibition on contraception. However, 15, or 29% of the students interviewed, did not know whether or not contraceptives were available on their campus. In addition, 23, or 45%, did not even know if contraceptive counseling was available, and 18, or 35%, did not know if emergency contraception was available. Emergency contraception was the service that undergraduates most frequently said their university health service did not provide. Only two undergraduates at Saint Louis University and Loyola Marymount University said emergency contraception was available on their campuses.

Students who receive their health insurance through their university also indicated that contraceptive access was a problem. Of the students who receive their health insurance through the university, or have a combination of their parents’ and their school’s insurance, all seven said their school’s plan did not cover contraception.

Other services that undergraduates said was lacking were abortion referrals and counseling. Only six students said their university provides abortion counseling and only four said they could receive abortion referrals. Interestingly, the counseling number reported by students is significantly lower that the number of schools that actually said they provide abortion counseling, as nearly 60% of the universities indicated they provide this service. This suggests that students are automatically assuming that Catholic universities do not provide non-directive abortion counseling. As a Holy Cross student put it: “They will tell you that there are two options if you get pregnant: putting the child up for adoption or keeping it.”


Catholic universities did better at offering and promoting STD screening and prevention. Nearly half (24) of the students surveyed said their university offers HIV/AIDS prevention education, although five specified that this was mainly in pamphlet form. A total of 41% (21) said their campus offers HIV screening, although two students noted that the university charged for screening. Over half the students (27) said STD prevention education was available, although six specified in pamphlet form only, and 19 said the school provided sexuality education.

However, the vast majority of students (84%) said their schools do not require HIV/AIDS prevention education or general sexuality education. Students also expressed a high level of dissatisfaction with the quality and depth of the programs that are offered. Students said that HIV/AIDS prevention education was most often delivered in the context of general high-risk behavior avoidance education that was part of freshman orientation. Such sessions were typically taught by RAs or peer educators and covered topics such as binge drinking and date rape, and to a lesser degree STDs and AIDS. A Georgetown University student noted that such sessions used to cover safe sex and featured condom distribution, but now stress abstinence and no longer distribute condoms.

Of the students surveyed, 61% said they were not satisfied with the accessibility of reproductive health services on their campuses. Another 20% said that they hadn’t used or needed the services since they were not sexually active. Only 16% of the female students surveyed at Catholic universities indicated that they were satisfied with the accessibility of reproductive health services on their campuses.

Female students said the single biggest shortcoming of reproductive health services on campus was the sheer lack of key services such as contraception, emergency contraception and condom distribution. A total of 41% pegged this as the biggest problem. One student said: “It is ridiculous-they are not even allowed to talk about birth control. The clinic does not dispense it even when medically necessary. The medical center will not even fill a prescription. Also, there is nowhere on the main campus or medical center to buy condoms.”

One-quarter of the students said the biggest shortcoming was a lack of knowledge about what services were offered and the failure of schools to promote available services. One student said, “The main shortcoming is that no one seems to know about what services are provided.” Another student said of the health center, “I’m not even sure you can get a pregnancy test there,” adding, “Marquette does offer a class through the Psychology Department on human sexuality, but you have to find this out on your own, it is not advertised.”

Just under one-quarter (24%) said the biggest shortcoming was a lack of openness in dealing with the reality of a sexually active population or the school’s negative attitude about sexuality. A student noted that “sex on campus is something that is not even considered a possibility by those setting up the programs.” Other student noted that the university stresses abstinence as a panacea for the lack of services: “The university believes that abstinence is key. They don’t seem to understand that the world does not work that way. Our health center provides no support for students.” Only six percent of the students said they were not aware of any shortcomings or did not believe there were any.

The survey found a general sense of frustration that women’s needs were not being met on campus-even from students who said they had found other ways to access reproductive health services. One student noted: “You should be able to get pills and condoms on campus at the health center. It would be an important part of taking care of the students’ health and well-being.” Still another student noted: “Outside of HIV testing and pregnancy tests, there seems to be no support services or sensitivity to female health issues.” Another warned, “It needs to be improved before something bad happens.”

The students we surveyed were quick to link the lack of health services to a general conservative attitude on Catholic campuses that denies the reality of a sexually active student population. Time and time again students noted that the outlook of their school’s administration concerning sexuality was unrealistic. One student at Providence College noted that “they don’t acknowledge that sex occurs on campus-even rapes are denied flat out.” Another student said the administration “tries to ignore the fact that people do have sex.”

If students at Catholic universities are not receiving services on campus, where are they receiving reproductive health services? The overwhelming majority of students said they and their peers go to local Planned Parenthoods for services. Seventy percent of students named Planned Parenthood, and to a much lesser degree other local women’s health clinics, as the resource to which most students typically turn. In fact, several students noted that there is a Planned Parenthood right down the block from their school. A student at Loyola University said, “If we didn’t have a Planned Parenthood nearby, I wouldn’t have known where to go.” Another place female students turn to for reproductive health services is private doctors (29%). Local drug stores (14%) are popular sources for condoms and 12% of students relied on friends and word-of-mouth to secure access to reproductive health services. On four campuses, pro-choice groups or women’s centers provide referrals to off-campus reproductive health services. At Georgetown University, H*yas for Choice buys condoms in bulk and distributes them through a private mailing list (the group is not officially recognized by the university, and therefore is prohibited from using the Georgetown mascot, Hoyas, in its name).

But even with off-campus sources of care, students noted that the lack of reproductive health services caused problems for themselves and their peers. Of the students surveyed, 37% said they or a friend had experienced a problem such as an unplanned pregnancy or an STD due to a lack of reproductive health services. Unplanned pregnancy or the threat of an unplanned pregnancy was the problem most commonly cited. One student noted: “I know many women who have had unwanted pregnancies. I know over 10 women who have had abortions out of desperation.” A few students even noted that their schools fail to recognize the reality of rape. A student said, “Women are discouraged by our own health services from getting a rape kit, which puts them at further risk of having an STD go undetected..

Of the 32 students who said they were not aware of a problem directly related to the lack of services on campus, four noted that it was because students accessed off-campus services. One student said: “A friend of mine needed emergency contraception. Since no services were available nearby, she had to go all the way to Planned Parenthood in Santa Monica. This not only put extra strain on her emotionally, but also put her in greater health danger as it took a much longer time before she was able to access their services.”

The cost of off-campus services such as Planned Parenthood or a private doctor is also a problem for many college students. One student noted: “I wanted to get on the pill but couldn’t afford Planned Parenthood. So I went to my school’s gynecologist and I couldn’t get the pill there.” Students noted that birth control pills at Planned Parenthood can cost as much as $25 and that HIV testing at some schools is as expensive as $75. And one student noted that many students are “too afraid or embarrassed” to go to Planned Parenthood for services, while another noted that the lack of transportation to off-campus services is a problem, especially for freshmen and sophomores.

Most disturbingly, several students noted that Catholic universities failed to provide support services for students who were pregnant and wished to carry their pregnancies to term. One student noted: “A friend got pregnant and had to leave school because she couldn’t get care.”

While unplanned pregnancy is clearly a major health issue for college-age women, colleges have been slow to institute programs that would allow women to make the choice to have a child. Undergraduate student life-from dorms to health insurance to lack of daycare-is designed around the expectation of single, childless students. Georgetown University is one of the few schools that offers comprehensive pregnancy services for pregnant students specifically designed to allow women to continue their pregnancy and stay in school. Pregnancy Services coordinates a comprehensive program for pregnant students including information on a variety of subjects such as medical care, housing options, financial assistance, adoption resources, academic assistance, support groups for single mothers, and access to a computerized data base clearinghouse for infant furniture and clothes. Hoya Kids Learning Center is a child development and preschool facility for children of full-time students, faculty and staff of Georgetown University.

Several of the students surveyed mentioned the complete lack of pregnancy services at on most campuses. One student noted: “My roommate had an unplanned pregnancy and received no services of any kind.” Of the six students we surveyed who carried the university’s health instance, three said they believed it covered pregnancy and delivery services, while three were unsure if the coverage was provided.

An additional survey of the university administrations at the same schools where students were surveyed revealed that of the 10 schools that would provide information about student and faculty policies, six student policies did cover pregnancy and delivery, while four did not. All the faculty policies except one cover pregnancy and delivery or allow for a choice of plans that do, but some do not cover contraceptives.


How Do Reproductive Health Services at Catholic Universities Measure Up?

There have been no comprehensive studies of reproductive health services at universities in the United States, so it is difficult to make a comparison of Catholic universities and secular universities. However, the American College Health Association does publish “Recommended Standards for College Health Programs.” These standards note that healthcare practitioners should “incorporate sexuality education into patient encounters, when appropriate, to provide opportunities for both individual and group counseling and discussion.” Clearly the fact that many female undergraduates indicated that they avoid their university health centers, and the fact that many Catholic university health centers fail to provide basic women’s health services, means that many valuable opportunities for counseling about safe sex, STD prevention and pregnancy prevention are lost.

The failure of Catholic universities to integrate sexuality education and treatment into their general health program places also students in danger of missing out on other counseling and prevention services routinely provided by college health centers. Female students at Catholic universities clearly feel they have been abandoned by their schools on the issue of reproductive healthcare. The failure to provide essential services leaves this population vulnerable to unplanned pregnancy, STDs, AIDS and fails to help students develop a healthy, realistic ethic regarding sex.



1 Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac, 2000-2001 Issue.
2 2000 Catholic Almanac, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing.
3 E. Victor Leino, Ph.D., Research Director, American College Health Association, Nov. 1, 2000.
4 Henshaw, “Unintended Pregnancy in the United States,” Family Planning Perspectives, January/February 1998.
5 “Abortion Patients in 1994-1995: Characteristics and Contraceptive Use,” Family Planning Perspectives, July/August 1996.
6 Ibid.
7″Sexually Transmitted Diseases in America: How Many Cases and at What Cost?,” The American Social Health Association, December 1998.
8 Ibid.
9 Kaiser Family Foundation/Glamour National Survey, 1997.
10 “General Statement on Institutional Response to AIDS,” American College Health Association, 1988.
11 “High-Risk Sexual Behavior at a Midwestern University: A Confirmatory Survey,” Family Planning Perspectives, March/April 1995.
12 Ibid.
13 “Proposed Board of Directors Position Statement on Student Health Insurance Model Legislation,” American College Health Association, 2000.


Patricia Miller is director of writing and research and Celina Chelala is research associate for Catholics for a Free Choice.

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