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May 16th, 2012
04:25 PM ET

College drops health care plan over religious objections to new law

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – A Catholic college in Ohio has apparently become the nation’s first to drop its health care plan because it opposes parts of the federal health care law signed by President Barack Obama.

The Franciscan University of Steubenville posted on its website last week that it is discontinuing its health care plan.

“The Obama Administration has mandated that all health insurance plans must cover ‘women’s health services’ including contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing medications as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” the university says.

“We will not participate in a plan that requires us to violate the consistent teachings of the Catholic Church on the sacredness of human life,” the statement says.

The coverage includes emergency contraceptives such as Plan B, which can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, but not drugs like RU-486, which can end an early pregnancy.

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The school is also dropping its health insurance plan for students because the new health care law requires employers to provide more robust coverage, making it more expensive, said Tom Sofio, a spokesman for the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

“It was our own moral reasons and then the rising cost of health care because of the act,” Sofio said, explaining the university’s decision.

Sofio said school officials are not aware of another college that has dropped its health insurance plan out of disagreements with the federal health care law.

A spokeswoman for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing three religious schools that are challenging the health care law, said that she was also unaware of another college that had taken such action.

A spokeswoman with the Health and Human Services Department, charged with implementing the new health care law, said Wednesday that the department had no comment on the school’s decision and that it does not keep track of changes to college health insurance plans.

The Obama administration faced a firestorm of controversy from many religious groups this year over a proposed rule that would require employers to provide no-cost contraception coverage to their employees.

In what it called a compromise, the White House revised the rule to require health insurance companies – not employers – to provide contraception coverage, mollifying some Catholic critics. Other Catholic groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, are not satisfied by the revised rule.

The Roman Catholic Church opposes the use of contraception.

“We’re paying the health insurance company, and if they provide abortion-causing drugs, that’s against our religious beliefs,” Sofio said Wednesday.

About 200 of the Franciscan University of Steubenville's 2,500 students rely on the university health care plan, which costs about $50 a month, Sofio said. He said the school is retaining its health care plan for employees because it is hopeful that legal challenges to the health care law will prevent much of it from taking effect.

Sofio said that the school sent letters about its decision to students and parents in April and that it has received overwhelming support from both constituencies. Ninety-five percent of students at the university are Catholic, he said.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Politics

soundoff (1,561 Responses)
  1. tony

    People who love religion so much, should not ask for tax exemptions from the rest of us who don't. Pay for your own fantasies and massive, expensive, publicity and conversion campaigns.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Blame Game

      Ummmm....they do. Thanks for playin 🙂

      May 17, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  2. Barn

    Suck it, employees!

    May 17, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  3. SPLAT!~

    Time to revise the 1st Amendment!~

    May 17, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  4. rcflyer8410

    The reality is that acts like these should seem outrageous and intolerable to everyone! Yet, the religious mind works much differently than the intelligent and logical one.
    Just imagine if our government actually did believe and embrace this type of insanity... actually, you don't have to imagine. We would be just like any one of the extremists middle eastern countries, where religious insanity dominates their laws and way of thinking. You can't successfully base a free society on the insanity of religious belief. To live ones life as suggested by the old testament, one would be considered a hardened criminal. To live by the word of the new testament, one would be deemed as insane.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Mavent

      Oh, the irony of a self-important d0uchebag accusing other people of being self-important d0uchebags.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • DavidinVancouverWA

      Mavent – christians don't use words like "d0uchebag", silly. That word implies v*gina, and if there's one thing that scares christians more than the gays, it's the v*gina. You'll scare them away with that dirty talk.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      @David – " if there's one thing that scares christians more than the gays, it's the v*gina." Now THAT'S funny.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  5. DavidInVancouverWA

    You'd expect a christian college to tell things like it is: they don't HAVE to do anything at all with women's health because they can let the insurer take care of it in an insurer-subscriber relationship ... but they don't care, they'd rather make a political statement about dropping insurance due to "religious beliefs". Whatever. I guess you can't even expect the holier-than-thou christians to tell the truth. Hypocrites AND liars, the whole bunch. Take away their federal tax expemption, and take away monetary support from the federal government (including funds for education and financial aid).

    May 17, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Mavent

      Yes, the "whole bunch of them", including the 99% that aren't even remotely behaving in the way you describe. Sheesh.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • JohnDunn

      Mavent – then why aren't the 99% out there calling this out for what it is, like me? I am a christian, and I call horsepooh where I see horsepooh, even when it is against my own. More of us should speak out against the hypocrisy.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  6. nyresident

    Schools like this will last as long as there are takers. If the students are not happy with this, then they should transfer. Put the school out of business. The Catholic Church needs money to sustain itself (despite Jesus preaching out in the open on hillsides). They're still in business; therefore, people must agree with them, or at least get some sense of security from it, or want to keep the peace and make grandma happy by getting married in a "real" church.

    And if you are not sure you agree with Catholic doctrine, or the doctrine of any organized religion, if you really don't want to stick by the old-fashioned rules, then change faiths. Why bother with any religion if you'll only follow part of it. It's a RELIGION, and such things usually come with a long and often archaic list of things one needs to do to have a "good" life. It's not an insurance policy you keep in your pocket for protection. Take your money/donations elsewhere.

    As long as there are people who actually care what these old guys running the Catholic Church think, continue sending their kids to Catholic schools and colleges, the old guys will continue influencing public policy– for all of us. And what's wrong with starting a new church with new rules? Religions come and go or outright change. Remember Martin Luther? It can be done.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • mcfx

      Yes I remember Marin Luther. Martin Luther started the Protestant movement which ignited even MORE religions. Do your homework. This Catholic school mandated health insurance at the cost of the students. The students are going to be ECSTATIC since the price of their education will DROP. Even if this coverage was made optional how many Teens/20-Somethings do you know that think they really need health insurance?

      May 17, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Kyle

      Sorry MCFX but the cost to benefit ratio actually favors the insurance companies that do this, it costs absolutely nothing.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • nyresident

      "Even if this coverage was made optional how many Teens/20-Somethings do you know that think they really need health insurance?"

      I don't know. Ask the 24 year old who just lost her leg to flesh-eating bacteria.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  7. orion7x

    No more tax breaks for you...

    May 17, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  8. gary

    Fine, drop your healthcare, all it means is talented candidates will consider another organization to work for than your own. Stupid protest, you hurt your employees and you chance of hiring the best candidates by your actions.
    I am a recruiter, I deal with this stuff everyday...

    May 17, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Drill Press

      And I'm sure those that leave will be replaced by many talented people who have high standards and were previously displaced by the economy created by The Chosen One.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Barn

      @DrillPress:
      Nope. Some principled people will replace those that leave, but most won't. This will hurt recruiting of quality staff, which will hurt recruiting of quality students, and either this policy will be undone or the school will fall into academic obscurity.

      Most qualified people, even principled ones, prefer jobs where their kids can afford to go to the dentist or emergency room when needed to jobs that refuse to help cover such costs. People are funny like that.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  9. Dan

    There's a solution to this. Stop funding them with federal dollars.
    They don't want to provide healthcare but they are OK with the priests molesting children. Such hypocrites!!!

    May 17, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  10. Decartes

    The sad thing is that without birth control we will suffer more of their spawn and thus keep perpetuating the myths of christianity. Maybe we need a law that requires spay and neutering services for anyone declaring themselves christian.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • hellonews

      wasn't decartes the one who proposed the ontological argument for a Christian God? hmm....

      May 17, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Patti

      Very radical statement decartes! Then again, I can't bring myself to disagree.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  11. Techie

    Lead the charge Catholics! Businesses should get out of healthcare in general. They should allow healthcare coverage to go national and companies should only compete on wages. It would increase the mobility of the workforce and allow you to keep your coverage if you lost your job (so long as you paid your premiums or had insurance to cover it)....And get rid of all the beaucracy of ObamaCare. This convoluted healthcare fiasco begins and ends with the government and unions.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Mavent

      You're free to stop using the health coverage that your employer provides.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Decartes

      You really are an idiot. If you remove healthcare responsibility from all businesses and let it go "national" then who's going to administer the healthcare? Oh, that's right let the healthcare industry police and regulate themselves. Such lack of regulation and self policing produced Lehman Brothers and credit default swaps, ENRON, etc. So keep the Affordable Health Care Act intact, bureaucracy and all. Or simply adopt the German single payer system and we can all have coverage.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  12. Patti

    I hope students drop the college.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  13. Tom from Atlanta

    If they want to play politics they can give up their tax exemption.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Pollywog22

      AMEN !!

      May 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  14. momoya

    how do you make atheist mad?

    May 17, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • tony

      Pretend to post in one's name. You really are a piece of lying excrement

      May 17, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  15. lynnoleum

    Who cares?

    May 17, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Mavent

      Well, obviously US, because we're posting, but I tend to agree with you. This was ridiculously stupid.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  16. Tim Jordan

    Guess they figure Jeebus can heal them now? Thought he commanded his disciples only to heal the sick if they agree with the current political climate.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Jim in Houston

      You are mistaken. Your God Obama does this every day.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  17. Eric

    In short. Oh well.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  18. hellonews

    "The coverage includes emergency contraceptives such as Plan B, which can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, but not drugs like RU-486, which can end an early pregnancy." Interesting factoid, did you know that the American Congress of Gynecologist and Obstetricians (ACOG) changed their definition of pregnancy in the 1980s to define pregnancy as occurring after the fertilized ovum (ie 46 chromosome organism called a human) implants into the wall of the uterus? Pregnancy was previously defined as occurring at the time of fertilization. Why does this matter? Well conveniently one of the four mechanisms of ALL birth control pills (yes ALL is highlighted for a reason) is to prevent implantation and if the definition of pregnancy was pre-1980s, then OBGYNs would have to tell you that the birth control pills they give you in fact have the potential to be abortifacient. Just thought all of you conservative Christians out there should know that by taking oral contraceptives (OCPs), there is a reasonable chance that at some point the OCP will act as abortifacient. As a disclosure, I'm a physician who is a conservative Christian (not Catholic). If you'd like to confirm this, the FDA will corroborate the mechanism of action for OCPs.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • hellonews

      one slight correction...1965 not the 1980s was the year.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  19. rcflyer8410

    I don't blame our politicians. While immoral and outright obnoxious, most of them aren't stupid. I doubt most of them are actually gullible enough to believe this nonsense. They realize that religion is a powerful tool – there are those with weak minds that believe it, and those who seek power and control who use it to their advantage. From a political standpoint, it go G.W. elected for another term – after all, as horrific (and unnecessary) as the war in Iraq was, the gullible people gave him another term – after all, the war was an inevitable prediction of the bible – and god told him to do it! Its a great tool now as a means to bring more anger and discredit to a health care plan which may allow millions of people to enjoy having access to medical care. This is also why money buys elections. Money buys attack ads and publicity. The weak religious mind does what its told, since it is tuned towards "what" to think as opposed to "how" to think. So, the more ads and airtime, the better response from the weak mind.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Jim in Houston

      You definitely are in the 1 % of US that believes all the lies Obama spreads. Every politician in last 20 years has promised one thing and done whatever they could get away with. Obama is just the most recent and visible. He has NO fiscal responsibility and only knows three things. How to spend other peoples money and how to dictate his wishes and last and most important for him how to blame everyone else for his failures.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  20. Doc Vestibule

    Every egg is sacred.
    Life begins at ovulation.
    Women should be ashamed of themselves for mentruating.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life" if my memory serves

      May 17, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • IsaacNewton

      AND: Every sperm is sacred too......let's not forget our little brothers !

      May 17, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • mandarax

      Every sperm is sacred
      Every sperm is good
      Every sperm is needed
      In your neighborhood

      Every sperm is sacred
      Every sperm is great
      Every sperm that's wasted
      God gets quite irate

      -Monty Python, The Meaning of Life
      (a man explaining to his children through song why he has to sell some of them – he can't afford them to feed them, but the church won't let him wear a little thingy)

      May 17, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.