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Georgetown To Continue Denying Full Contraception Coverage To Students, Announcement Says

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WASHINGTON -- Georgetown University's health insurance received national attention after Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke attempted to testify about it in front of a congressional committee.

But despite the uproar that resulted -- Fluke was denied a chance to speak, then called a "slut" by radio show host Rush Limbaugh -- Georgetown announced Thursday that it wouldn't make any changes to its contraception coverage.

"After thoughtful and careful consideration, we will continue our current practice for contraceptive coverage in our student health insurance for the coming year, as allowed for under the current rules issued by the United States Department of Health and Human Services," wrote Georgetown President John DeGioia in a release to the university.

Under its current practice, Georgetown, which is a Jesuit university, denies students coverage for contraception if it is used for birth control. DeGioia said that Thursday's decision was "consistent with our Catholic and Jesuit identity," echoing commentary by conservatives who have termed the battle over contraception coverage a religious freedom issue.

The statement mentioned that the current policy "does provide coverage for these prescriptions for students who require them for health reasons unrelated to birth control, as determined by a physician." But much of Fluke's testimony centered around the difficulties of Georgetown students in receiving such exemptions even when medical needs demanded they use birth control.

Speaking about a friend with ovarian cysts who required birth control, Fluke said that "for my friend and 20 percent of the women in her situation, she never got the insurance company to cover her prescription. Despite verifications of her illness from her doctor, her claim was denied repeatedly on the assumption that she really wanted birth control to prevent pregnancy."

The Department of Health and Human Services has mandated that student health plans cover all FDA-approved forms of contraception by August 2012, but religious institutions like Georgetown were granted a one-year delay. DeGioia's letter, which confirmed that Georgetown would take that delay, came a week after 780 Georgetown law students, including Fluke, urged the university not to wait until 2013 to offer full coverage.

A university spokeswoman told The Huffington Post that Georgetown's announcement was not in response to the letter, and that the school had been hearing from organizations "on all sides of the issue."

But while students are prevented from receiving full contraception coverage, university employees are not. DeGioia noted in his statement that there was "no change to the University’s approach to contraceptive coverage for employees."

Kayleen Hartman, a Georgetown law graduate and current fellow at the school's Human Rights Institute, questioned the divide between students and employees. "I spent three years as a student at Georgetown Law and then transitioned immediately to a job there. How is it possible that it became less of a sin and a violation of moral conscience to provide me with contraception coverage the moment I started drawing a salary?," asked Hartman.

Georgetown's Student Bar Association asked for a clarification on the issue in February, but received no response from the university.

UPDATE 7:19 p.m EST: Law Students for Reproductive Justice, a student group at Georgetown, issued a statement on Thursday condemning the university's decision. "Georgetown LSRJ is deeply disturbed to learn that Georgetown University President John DeGioia has decided not to comply with the final rule of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requiring comprehensive contraceptive coverage in 2012 student insurance," they wrote. "We believe President DeGioia’s decision is an affront to the health concerns of the Georgetown student body. Georgetown LSRJ has extensively documented that Georgetown’s current policy does not adequately meet students’ medical needs for contraception."

Fluke, a past president of the group, also issued her own statement. "I think many current and future alumni like myself, when contacted for alumni donations, will remember this decision, and remember that President DeGioia didn't meet with students to even discuss our concerns," she said.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Kayleen Hartman's religious preference.