By Kerry-Anne Loughman | Opinion Columnist

Lack of birth control on campus continues to be problematic for students seeking easily accessible contraception. (Courtesy of SheKnows)

In its nearly 155 years of being an educational institution, Saint Mary’s College of California has never offered contraception to its students, no matter their gender. The main argument for this position has been that Saint Mary’s is a Catholic institution, and the Catholic church famously does not believe in contraception.

As a person who spent their childhood attending catechism, receiving the sacraments, and becoming very familiar with the taste of the cardboard-esque brown wafers served during holy communion, I am well aware of the rules and restrictions within the Catholic Church. Catholicism is a religion that is deeply rooted in tradition—there is a reason why the structure of Mass never changes, why there are certain prayers to be memorized and recited at specific times, and why there are rules to be upheld within the tradition itself. So to an extent, I can understand why the Saint Mary’s administration refuses to consider the idea of changing their policy.

However, as a lifetime Catholic and unapologetic feminist, I refuse to believe that belief in Catholicism and support for accessible contraception are mutually exclusive. It’s more than possible to be a good Catholic and still support access to contraception, especially on the Saint Mary’s campus.

For one, college students are going to be sexually active— whether or not contraception is accessible is not going to change this fact. The Health and Wellness Center on campus should be equipped with every possible way to help its students in times of medical trouble—and sometimes these medical conditions are of a menstrual or sexual nature. If a student came to the Health and Wellness Center wanting to prevent themselves from catching the flu, they would receive a vaccination and go on their way. Why shouldn’t we treat the prevention of pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases, as well as the management of menstrual periods, in the same secular fashion? Why can’t we liberate this issue from its intersection with Catholic doctrine? Bottom line: Saint Mary’s should be actively helping its students protect themselves against pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases, and the fact that it doesn’t is a major disservice to the student population.

Also relevant is the fact that the Catholic Church is notorious for being against same-sex marriage and homosexuality as a whole—and yet Saint Mary’s is institutionally accepting of all forms of sexual identity, as evidenced by our ability to have PRIDE club and the BASH cultural nights on campus. If the administration was truly concerned with upholding Catholic doctrine, they would likely not allow us to have any on-campus events of this nature.

Finally, though Saint Mary’s is a Catholic institution, only 54 percent of the student population identifies themselves as Catholic. Just because a student chose to come to Catholic school doesn’t mean they should have the strict rules of Catholicism foisted upon them—many people choose Catholic schools such as Saint Mary’s because they enjoy the importance placed on inclusivity, spirituality, and community within the student body, not because they’re Catholic. It’s unfair to subject non-Catholic students to religious rules they might not believe in.

To me, being a good Catholic isn’t about memorizing prayers, going to Confession on a regular basis, or constantly checking myself to make sure I am upholding the many rules Catholicism traditionally holds; it’s about maintaining a good relationship. Catholicism isn’t just a list of boxes to check off as we go through life.There is no box labeled “depriving students of contraception” that every Catholic person or institution must check in order to fully submit themselves to Catholicism. Being a good Catholic is, at its core, about doing good in the name of God, and providing our students with contraception would have a very positive impact on campus.

This article has 2 comments

  1. Mario Salazar

    Ms. Loughman,

    I was quite impressed by your opinion and I support you 100%. I am an SMC alum and have often wondered why the administration is hesitating on providing the services that you outline in your argument. One can extrapolate and conclude that giving out contraceptives is the first step down a slippery slope: “what’s next on their list of demands” they will probably wonder, “provide onsite abortions to pregnant students?” While this may be a resounding YES to some or even most students, I think the school would rather not go against Catholic foundational beliefs.

    Either way, providing (at the very least) condoms is wise not from just a contraceptive angle, but also as a public health issue. This last point is reason alone for the college to take proactive (and in some ways – preventive) care of its student body.

  2. I am all for this cause, but it is a complete lie that the majority of students are sexually active. Everyone just lies in the surveys to make themselves look special. And our society needs to stop focusing all their attention on helping people who already are successful and start helping those who have nothing.

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