Obama Administration rule forcing Catholic colleges to cover contraception, abortafacients in student health plans draws fire

By Michelle Bauman

Washington, Mar 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) — Representatives of Catholic colleges voiced disappointment in a new federal rule finalizing the requirement to include student health plans in a controversial new contraception mandate.

Patrick J. Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society, said the mandate will undermine the efforts of every Catholic family that “chooses a Catholic college to ensure an appropriate Christian environment for their daughter.”

Reilly told CNA on March 19 that the requirement violates religious freedom and would helping to “supply promiscuous college students.” Under the mandate, he explained, a college freshman girl will be able to arrange for a free “tubal ligation or an IUD or the abortion-causing drug Ella, covered without co-pay by the insurance plan offered by her Catholic institution.”

On March 16, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a final rule on student health plans under the health care reform law. The regulation will require colleges to treat student health plans like employee plans, making them subject to the administration’s contraception mandate.

The controversial mandate has come under fire in recent months because it will require employers to offer health care plans that include coverage of contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.

Catholic colleges and universities do not qualify for the narrow religious exemption to the mandate. Rather, they will likely fall under a second set of guidelines that the Obama administration describes as its “accommodation” for religious freedom.

Implementation of that accommodation has not yet been finalized and is currently the subject of a 90-day public comment period. However, initial statements by the administration have suggested that religious organizations will be required to contract with an insurance provider – or third party administrator, in the case of self-insured organizations – that will offer the coverage that the organizations find objectionable.

“This doesn’t surprise me,” said Mike Hernon, vice president for advancement at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

He explained that the administration had expressed its intention of including student health plans in the mandate from the very beginning, and the final rule has simply “made it crystal clear” that the administration intends to go through with its plan.

“This is a violation of our First Amendment freedoms,” Hernon said, explaining that his university chooses not to cover products and procedures that are contrary to Church teaching in its voluntary health plan for students.

Students choose to attend Franciscan University of Steubenville “because they want to be part of a culture that support life and the mission of the Church,” he said, adding that the mandate “flies in the face of that.”

Hernon explained that, in order to live out its mission as a Catholic institution, everything from hiring decisions to the formation of the curriculum at the university is “completely intertwined with the Catholic faith.”

The mandate attempts to force the university to separate its teaching in the classroom from its action in the health insurance plans that it provides, he said.

Larry Morris, general counsel for The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., agreed.
He explained that the required inclusion of student health plans is “no less offensive” than the original requirement to offer the objectionable coverage to employees.

The regulation uses the “same compulsion” to turn the university into an “instrument of the government” in carrying out actions that are contrary to Catholic teaching, he said.

Several colleges have filed lawsuits against the administration, arguing that the mandate violates their constitutionally protected right to religious freedom.

In addition, numerous religious groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have voiced support for legislation to protect the conscience rights of both religious organizations and faithful individuals throughout the country.

The Cardinal Newman Society has stated that “the fullest protection of religious liberty for Americans is possible only by rescinding the federal mandate.” It has called on Catholic colleges across the country to “clearly and publicly oppose this mandate and the Obama administration’s inadequate religious exemption” until the religious liberty of both individuals and institutions is secure.


Posted Thursday, March 22, 2012 5:16 AM By Jane 
The next step after passage of this might be for the government to start to interfere with the right of catholic educational institutions to inform students that if they use the contraceptive and abortive services supplied by the student health plans, that they will be committing a grave wrong. Our government is going to do everything in its power to get people using birth control and abortion and I think that eventually it will start interfering with what can be taught in Catholic schools about these things.

Posted Thursday, March 22, 2012 5:27 AM By Ted
Let’s face the facts. This mandate at any level amounts to the deprivation of First Amendment rights for a significant part of the American public. Moreover, this is aimed directly at the Catholic Church. The Church leaders need to abandon their fear of the IRS and take to the pulpit and forcefully tell Catholics of the obvious moral implications of voting for Barack Obama again. He must be turned out of office in November, if it means the loss of tax exempt status for the Church – which even Obama won’t allow to happen as evil as his intentions are.

Posted Thursday, March 22, 2012 6:21 AM By Carole
The larger picture is that this is about government control, both of population. our purses, and our freedoms, and the elimination of religion and God in our country and the world at large. Those who do not want to see and hear are leading us into a fate we don’t ever want to have to live in our lifetime. Please wake up all.

Posted Thursday, March 22, 2012 6:47 AM By MacDonald
“Drop dead or we’ll kill you.” Great headline for this article. This could also be the motto of many posters on this site!

Posted Thursday, March 22, 2012 7:44 AM By Camille
Not only will your college bound daughter get the full range of reproductive drugs and devices including abortions, she will most likely obtain them from a “mid-level” provider instead of a doctor. Planned Parenthood in cooperation with teaching hospitals such as UCSF, has been training midwives to commit abortions and distribute chemical abortifacients for years now. It’s illegal, but the state allows a waiver of the law for experimentation purposes. the philosophy is “one doesn’t know the outcomes unless one tries it.” SB1501, Abortions by Sen. Kehoe, legalizing this is merely recognizing what is being done and covering it with a state blessing.

Posted Thursday, March 22, 2012 8:47 AM By OneoftheSheep
“To proclaim Jesus is itself to proclaim life. For Jesus is “the word of life”(1Jn 1:1). In him “life was made manifest”(1Jn1:2); he himself is “the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us”(1Jn1:2). By the gift of the Spirit, this same life has been bestowed on us. It is being destined to life in its fullness, to “eternal life”, that every person’s earthly life acquires its full meaning.” Evanagelium Vitae, 80, John Paul II. This is the mission of every Catholic institution and it can not be squelched, compromised, or legislated out of existence by any tyrannical mandate that ignores the first amendment. This shall not stand.

Posted Thursday, March 22, 2012 9:19 AM By kaves1
Ted, I agree. Fear of the IRS must be abandoned. Confront the IRS without fear and do en masse and do it very publicly. That is what Obama fears.This is what it will come down to – if the courts don’t side with us.

Posted Thursday, March 22, 2012 9:52 AM By Tracy
Carole, well said! Obama and his ilk will not back down, even if 100% of Americans oppose it. Oh, he may change his mind temporarily if he thinks this is the only way to get reelected, but make no mistake, Carole is absolutely correct in what she is saying.

Posted Thursday, March 22, 2012 10:30 AM By Cecile
The Church will close all institutions, hospitals and universities before it’s coerced into this position. Many people will lose their jobs because of Obama. He’ll wake up soon, I’m sure…..