Loyola Students Fight for Reproductive Rights

Courtesy of Students for Reproductive Justice's Facebook pageSRJ members hold signs and march in support of contraceptive rights and awareness on the Lake Shore Campus on Sept. 16.

As a Jesuit university following Catholic values, Loyola does not provide contraception to its students. One group of students emphasizing women’s rights and “reproductive justice” has tried solving this lack of protection by passing out more than 1,000 condoms on and near the Lake Shore Campus (LSC) this school year.

Reproductive justice is defined as “the human right to have children, to not have children and parent the children we have,” according to the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective, a group designed to help women of color fight for reproductive rights.

Reproductive justice includes, but is not limited to, the idea that women should be able to choose whether to reproduce or not reproduce. Supporters of the idea, such as the group Trust Black Women, emphasize that the issue is about more than being pro-choice; it involves advocating for the overall well-being of women from all backgrounds.

A group of Loyola students called Students for Reproductive Justice (SRJ), which is not registered as an official Loyola student organization, has attempted to shed light on the issue.

This group, formerly known as Loyola Students for Contraception, held a demonstration on Sept. 16 that began near the statue of Fr. Damen, S.J., on the LSC. It ended near the Loyola Red Line station after Loyola administrators asked the group to disband for soliciting, according to SRJ member Ellie Molise.

SRJ stated in a press release that it passed out 800 condoms along with informational packets during the demonstration.

The group also distributed more than 200 condoms on Sept. 2, according to its Facebook page, which says the group takes issue with Loyola’s anti-contraception policy and lack of reproductive resources.

“We want to create an on-campus environment where all sexualities and sexual choices are not only acknowledged but have a way to be safe and validated,” said SRJ member Jena DiMaggio, a junior English and women’s and gender studies double major.

The Wellness Center’s website states it does not offer oral contraception or other contraceptives unless for a medical reason.

SRJ member Molise, who is triple-majoring in women’s and gender studies, Spanish and international studies, said she knows people who have lied about having medical problems in order to get prescribed birth control at the Wellness Center.

“I think [it] is incredibly problematic that Loyola sets up a system where students have to lie to the person who’s in charge of their health,” said the 21-year-old senior.

The Jesuits follow the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching that no contraception should be used. In its place, the Church offers a natural family planning strategy for married couples that involves tracking a woman’s fertility cycle to avoid pregnancy.

For Loyola, it’s a matter of abiding by these preset guidelines.

“You’re going to find the same thing with every Catholic college or university,” said Diana Asaro, director of the Wellness Center. “Honestly, it’s a Catholic faith issue … The Catholic Church would have to change its stance, and then the rest comes with that … It’s not like the university is going to change it.”

Loyola has permitted activities and resources in the past that are not necessarily condoned by the Catholic Church’s teachings, such as drag shows held by Advocate, a Loyola group supporting students from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersexual, asexual and pansexual (LGBTQIAP+) community.

Dani Jo Skaife said she is glad Loyola accepts of people of different sexualities and faiths, but thinks the university’s no-contraception policy is hypocritical.

“They’re picking and choosing what aspects of the traditional Catholic teachings [to follow],” said the 21-year old senior and health systems management major. “I find it very interesting that they choose to ignore a very traditional Catholic teaching of ‘You can only have one God’ … but they follow the one that says … ‘You can’t have contraception to prevent pregnancy.’”

Although none of the other 27 Jesuit universities in the United States provide contraception, according to their websites, The University of San Francisco, a Jesuit school, provides thorough information about various contraceptive methods on its website.

The University of San Francisco did not return The Phoenix’s request for comment at the time of publication.

SRJ’s Molise and DiMaggio, 20, said SRJ realizes the problem is with the Catholic Church’s teachings and doesn’t expect Loyola’s policies to change immediately.

“We know that Loyola has their limitations because it is a Catholic university, but part of what we’re trying to do is change the culture around sexual and reproductive health within the context of Catholic institutions,” Molise said.

Loyola’s Wellness Center provides other services for women’s sexual health, including gynecology exams, sexually transmitted infections (STI) testing and treatment and sexual violence support groups.

“I think, oftentimes, the divide ends up being with what students … [don’t know] that we do versus, in actuality, the services we provide,” the Wellness Center’s Asaro said.

The testing and treatment of STIs are allowed at the university because they are health issues, according to associate director of the Wellness Center Joan Holden.

The Wellness Center does not refer students to places where they can get contraception, according to Asaro.

“As a woman, women are smart, and you’re educated by the time you get to Loyola,” Asaro said. “I think women can figure out where they can go.”

The closest resource to Lake Shore Campus is Planned Parenthood, with a location at 6365 N. Broadway Ave. The healthcare location provides access to contraception, pregnancy and STI testing, abortion referrals and other services.

RETRACTION: An earlier version of this article said that Provost John Pelissero did not respond to The PHOENIX’s request for comment. However, Pelissero did respond in an email and referred The PHOENIX to the office of University Marketing and Communications.

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