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Leahy Gave the CEO of CVS Health an Award Shortly After the Company Started Distributing Abortion Pills. Some Are Calling The Decision Hypocritical.

In March, CVS began distributing prescriptions of the abortion pill mifepristone.

Just over a month later, on April 18, University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., awarded President and CEO of CVS Health Karen S. Lynch, BC ’84, the 2024 President’s Medal for Excellence.

“Lynch will be presented with the President’s Medal for Excellence in recognition of her exceptional career, as well as her personal and professional contributions to society,” Boston College said in a release.

In an interview with CBC News last month, Lynch said the decision to begin distributing mifepristone in states where it is legally allowed was made to provide women with better access to health care.

“As a company, our north star is that we support women’s health and that we are committed to making sure that women have access to reproductive health services, education, and FDA-approved products,” Lynch said in the interview.

On the same day that Lynch was presented the award, an account under the name “BC Equality” made a post criticizing the University for hypocrisy in how it applies its Catholic values.

“Just as BC totally ignored the Pope’s instructions to divest from fossil fuels, BC is once again proving that Catholic doctrine is irrelevant at BC,” the post reads. “Unless you want to justify your homophobic and transphobic bigotry.”

University Spokesman Jack Dunn said the award presented to Lynch recognized her contributions as a CEO, not the offerings of CVS as a whole.

“Karen Lynch was honored at the Wall Street Council Dinner for her leadership as a CEO,” Dunn wrote in a statement to The Heights. “Her award is unrelated to products CVS may provide at its pharmacies.”

Luke Wayson, president of BC Students for Life and CSOM ’25, said he was surprised that Leahy chose to present the award to Lynch given BC’s Catholic identity, which informs its moral stance on abortion.

“I’m not saying it’s moral in really any circumstance, but I’m saying that especially as a Catholic institution, I’m surprised that Father Leahy gave the award,” Wayson said. “Assuming that he knew. I don’t know if he knew, but if he knew that, I’m very disappointed.”

The co-president of Boston College Students for Sexual Health (SSH), an independent student group that provides students with sexual health and sex education resources, said they found BC’s decision to give Lynch an award to be hypocritical.

While SSH shares similar values to Lynch, the group remains unsupported by BC’s administration on campus, the co-president said.

“It’s just challenging, and it’s ridiculous—and a little bit ironic, I guess—that somebody who’s doing work that kind of aligns with what we do and is really relevant for us is being awarded when we get nothing but difficulty from BC administration,” said the student, who wished to remain anonymous to avoid potential disciplinary consequences.

Lynch was given the award at BC’s annual Wall Street Business Leadership Council’s Tribute Dinner, which is a fundraiser for the Gabelli Presidential Scholars Program. Of the $2.8 million raised through the event, Lynch and her husband, Kevin Lynch, contributed over $100,000 under The Karen and Kevin Lynch Foundation.

In a statement to The Heights, Amy Thibault, CVS Pharmacy’s lead director of external communications, said CVS began filling prescriptions for mifepristone on March 12 in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and has since expanded to other states that are legally able to carry the prescription.

“This followed the completion of a robust certification process and implementation of all FDA-required protocols for this medication,” the statement reads.

The history of CVS is closely aligned with the mission of advancing women’s health and providing reproductive health services, Thibault said in the statement.

“We have a long history of supporting and advancing women’s health and we remain focused on meeting their unique health needs,” the statement reads. “This includes providing access to safe, legal, and evidence-based reproductive health services, information, and FDA-approved products.” 

One policy stemming from BC’s Jesuit Catholic identity is its stance on providing contraceptive services to employees. The University does not pay for services involving voluntary sterilizations—which includes coverage for emergency contraceptives such as mifepristone. 

“Boston College, as a religious-affiliated institution, qualifies for an accommodation with respect to the federal requirement to cover certain FDA-approved contraceptive services for women,” the policy reads. “Harvard Pilgrim Health Care will arrange separate payments for these contraceptive services, without cost sharing and at no other cost to the member. These payments will not be funded by Boston College.”

The plan does, however, cover “standard oral contraceptives,” the policy states.

According to the co-president of SSH, though many students and faculty support promoting sexual health on campus, the organization continuously experiences difficulties with administration around campus.

“I know that in the past, there have been difficulties with BCPD trying to, you know, prevent SSH from tabling,” the student said. “I know that [the UGBC Senate] tried to pass something in UGBC, essentially asking if students wanted SSH to be able to be able to be on campus or not, and it was like a huge majority vote in favor, but they didn’t change any policies,” the student said.

Wayson said that when giving awards, it is important for the University to consider the implications of who they choose to honor.

“I just think we need to be more careful about who we’re giving awards to and whether the lives that they lead are ones that should be modeled after,” Wayson said.

Update (May 1, 2024, 10:45 a.m.): This article was updated from a previous version to include a statement from University Spokesman Jack Dunn.

Update (May 3, 2024, 12:20 p.m.): This article was updated from a previous version to change BCSSH to SSH.

May 1, 2024