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. TonyInNYC

    They will deny health coverage to their employees and students because otherwise it would give them the option to do things that probably none of them would do, because they are good Catholics.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Alicia Townes

      I think that every person have a right for birth control regardless of their religious faith

      May 17, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  2. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    All this uproar and hate because the Black President is successfully moving the country forward! Hey, keep it up! You aint hurting anyone but yourselves! Just remember when the ship sinks, we all go down with it! So go ahead and destroy America! But just remember the damage you're doing to this country would be irreversible!

    May 17, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  3. Omar

    they oppose the use of contraception, however, they teach mankind to disobey Gods law by changing the Sabbth day. It is her mark. It is the beast's mark.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  4. n8263

    Only with religion would anyone say a fertilized egg is a person.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  5. Punisher2000

    Shut these drongos down

    May 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  6. Mike

    sooo the plan would have been a bit more expensive to the school, so their response is drop it all together, and let the student go out and buy thier own. this is essentially passing the costs to students. wow. how very Christian. oh, and reminder, you are a UNIVERSITY, not a CHURCH.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • aicohn

      Ummmmm No. They are being forced to do something against their religious teachings so they are jettisoning the whole plan instead.

      Welcome to Obamacare!

      May 17, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Mike

      Yes, aicohn, ensuring that everyone has the same access to affordable health care is the problem here, not antiquated beliefs that no employer should be allowed to force onto their employees.


      May 17, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • cece smith

      Christians are so unchritianly. Cancel poor students health care in the name or Jesus. Sad, sad.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  7. Punisher2000

    How thick can they get? They protest and the employees are left without coverage? Should be bloody illegal. Victorian ninnies.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  8. neal

    Many studies have found that people who are religious live longer.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Punisher2000

      And stupider

      May 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Biker

      Did those studies also find that being religious made you impervious to getting sick?

      May 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  9. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    I have an idea! Why don't you bible toting lunatics don't leave this country in protest of President Obama's leadership? This way, you rightwing low life won't have to worry about what this administration is doing at home!

    May 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Omar

      you do realize you will be judged by your words. and judgment is soon. it is even at the door.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  10. pat

    Because of "the sacredness of human life" they're dropping their health plans.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  11. A Serpent's Thought

    Societal sicknesses considered. Condom centralities rendered. Hate fills the commoners' needs. Dwell on, dwell! I hate you and you can hate me! It's a position of being free. Cling to one's hatred of religion even though the religious do not hate the abnormal Actors but rather they hate the abnormalisms' Actor-actions! To make a short story a bit longer;- the tallywaggles do their wiggling ways in plain sights with hardly any remorse. Enjoy your Life you bigots against religion and take cares to ever be an abnormality Actor of perverted actions! Love God or hate God for it makes no difference to God! Only the hate for bigoted mankind is of all peoples' doing! God knows all truths! Even the bad truths!

    May 17, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  12. Dave

    And this is a place that's educating kids??? I'm sure this is teaching them a lot....like religion is bad. This is how religion is ruining our country. Nothing buy brainwashing and bullying.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  13. n8263

    For the people asking about employees, the statement said "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."

    That means they are dropping coverage for employees also.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • n8263

      Hold on, then they say later down they are continuing coverage for employees. So apparently they ARE participating in a plan that requires them "to violate the consistent teachings of the Catholic Church on the sacredness of human life," though they say there are not. What the hell?

      May 17, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Greg

      Problem with comprehending or with reading?
      "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."

      May 17, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Greg

      Sorry. My screen hadn't yet updated with your comment.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  14. Daniel

    If you're a christian and you've ever believed " I'm not perfect, I'm just forgiven." to be a free pass on being a complete A * * hole then you're going to have a very surprised look on your face on judgement day. You cannot expect to be a mess of a person, supposedly representing the christian faith driving away non believers in masses, just not care and expect to be awarded every lasting life. Christianity is supposed to be a great challenge, it's not a challenge to be a dismissive jerk, it's human nature.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  15. Emperor Vadik, CA

    Obstinacy and $1.07 will buy you a 99 cent burger at McDonalds...

    ...that is about it....

    May 17, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  16. n8263

    For the people who ask what is wrong with religion if people find it comforting, this is a good example of how it harms society.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  17. Sue

    Kids can now be included on their parent's insurance plan until age 26. That should get most kids through college with insurnace coverage. Maybe that is why the college did this? Knowing they could still be covered.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • logan5

      You can't really be this naive, can you? Let's be real, they did it because they are asserting and reaffirming their absurd, archaic ideologies.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Biker

      And what about the employees that no longer have coverage?

      May 17, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  18. lunchbreaker

    life sucks and so does the computer.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Biker

      No, your life sucks. And you don't know how to use a computer.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  19. karinrosner

    I am a former student of FUS. If the University decision makers were going to be really consistent, they would drop healthcare benefits for employees as well. If they were going to really take the lead for not just the Roman Catholic Community but all Christians, they would offer some innovative ideas in building a healthcare resource to replace the health benefits they are now not providing a significant portion of the Student Body.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  20. Snuziq

    So they will deny health coverage to their employees and students because it gives them the option to do something they don't want them to do? Boy, they sure showed me! I'm sure the fact that taking this stance will save the school TONS of money played no factor in their decision. It must be that they don't have enough faith in their students and employees to make decisions within the teachings of their religion to allow them the freedom to say no to birth control and abortion for themselves. The real test of faith is being faithful in the face of temptation. Guess they don't think their church is strong enough to handle it.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • JDinKC

      That is exactly it, they should trust their students and employees to do the right thing, not take an action that removes free choice. It is up to the individual to chose their actions.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • A Serpent's Thought

      @ Snuziq

      Religious people much like other folks deal with their mortality in secular societal anguish. Many genders, including myself fear death and disease! We want to be free of all manner of illness and treasure healthy goodness of Life! Modern physiscians have been around for a really short period of time. They have gained a wealthy Lifestyle on the backsides of people's sicknesses! Death is an inevitability and all any doctor can do is proplong one's life from dying. Death is inevitable and is ever a prolonging issue for the weakened minds! I too am weak minded when it comes to dying!

      May 17, 2012 at 2:50 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.