The XX Factor

The Fordham Birth-Control Flap Is a Model Case of Civil Disagreement

When I saw the headline on the Jezebel  post, “Fordham Students Protest Hidden Anti-Birth-Control Policy,” I was prepared to be half-amused, half-annoyed at the naivete of college students. Ladies, Fordham is a Catholic university. Of course it’s not going to prescribe birth control. That goes against the church doctrine.

But I was pleasantly surprised.  The students aren’t railing against the university’s ban on distributing birth control so much as they just want the school to be more upfront about its policy. And they have smartly set up an off-campus clinic to prescribe birth control and offer advice. There was claim by a student group, the Fordham Law Students for Reproductive Justice that “Organizers of the clinic have been investigated by the University and may be subject to disciplinary action.” But the university has issued a statement saying that none of the students will face disciplinary action and said that it will consider updating its website  to be more specific about its policy on birth control.

What’s interesting about this whole situation is how civil the whole disagreement appears to have been. The students aren’t demanding that the school pass out free birth control, and the school is taking a hands-off approach to the group’s off-campus activities. Each side stands firm in its beliefs, and yet respectful toward the other side.

It’s something we need vastly more of in the general conversation about reproductive health and abortion. Both sides have become so entrenched and unwilling to listen to each other that the whole debate consists of people shouting past each other, and it’s absolutely impossible to find common ground.