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. Mike

    Capitalism at its best! If the Catholics don't want to compete for decent healthcare plans for their employees. That is their choice. But I'm not sure how you're going to acquire and retain good employees when your actions show you clearly don't care about your employees health or wellbeing.

    May 17, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  2. youreright

    what a bunch of trolls!

    May 17, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • George Mason

      I know the Obama administration is really trying to restrict freedom.

      May 17, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  3. sarah

    I wonder if they consulted with the 200 students and if the 200 support the protest? If so, no major loss.

    May 17, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  4. JennyTX

    I'll be helping my kids choose colleges in the next few years. I'll definitely be sure to AVOID Catholic universities and send my money elsewhere.

    May 17, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Chris

      Not all Catholic Universities are crazy.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  5. skytag

    anon, every other industrialized country has universal health care and nothing in any of those countries is falling apart due to their health care systems. You've been brainwashed to believe a lot of nonsense. Are you a Tea Party person?

    May 17, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • anon

      You didn't pay attention to what I typed. I said that socialism, healthcare included, is what is tearing down Europe, and it is. If it were ONLY healthcare, or only a few other things, we would do alright. After all, when we had a surplus, we handled medicaid and similar govt. programs just fine. But it's expensive, and if a country can't afford it, and is trillions in debt, then yes, it will be a contributing factor to eventual collapse.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  6. Reality

    Some additional nitty-gritty:

    "Twenty-one states offer exemptions from contraceptive coverage, usually for religious reasons, for insurers or employers in their policies: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan (administrative rule), Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and West Virginia."



    The Catholic hierachy do not believe in artificial birth control so why do they employ those who do? Did not the Supreme Court recently decide that religious organizations have the right to decide who they hire and fire? Bottom line: To reduce health insurance costs and to not be subject to Obama care regulations about supplying contraceptives, Catholic groups should simply not hire those who want contraceptives and fire those who demand such coverage.


    There are different opinions as to what a religion really is or what a non-profit is and therefore all non-profits should file Form 990's. At the moment, religious groups are exempt. To be fair therefore, there should be no tax-exemptions for any group and that includes the Democratic and Republican Parties. Faith and community initiative grant monies should also be cancelled and there should also be no tax deductions for contributions made to charities and non-profits.



    "The government must stay out of hiring and firing decisions by a religious organization, even if a minister sues for employment discrimination, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.

    Religious freedom groups praised the decision, and especially the fact that it came from a unanimous court."

    May 17, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  7. Reality

    Obviously, the frugal Franciscan Friars who take a vow of poverty and who run the topic University need to balance the school budget, something our federal, state and local government obviously are not capable of regarding their own budgets. Some frugal ideas for all the associated parties:


    Condoms are available over the counter. Make the Pill available over the counter and there will be no more debate.

    Planned Parenthood can offer deep discounts for those who say they cannot afford said protection.

    Or better yet, put a pack of condoms and a box of Pills in cereal boxes. Unfortunately, that would not ensure the condoms and/or Pills would be used. Based on Guttmacher Insti-tute data, said condoms and/or Pills are currently not being used as they should. (one million abortions/yr and 19 million cases of S-TDs/yr because either the daily Pill was not taken or a condom stayed in the pocket.)

    Maybe selling Pill-enriched sodas??? Hmmm?

    Condom-fitted briefs for men?? Hmmm? 🙂

    The door is open for other ideas!!!

    And does not "Obamacare" (i..e the taxpayers) provide health coverage of students under the age of 26? Or at least allow said students to be covered under their parents' health insurance?

    May 17, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • skytag

      "Make the Pill available over the counter and there will be no more debate."

      Idiotic suggestion. There isn't just one "pill." There are many formulations of birth control pills. Their use should be monitored by a doctor since different women react differently to different formulations. If you don't even know this you really shouldn't be spouting off about it.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • sarah

      The Frugal Friars also support welfare, social services, taxing the wealthy , condemn war and believe being a billionaire is a mortal sin. So yea, let them be in charge. I'm sure the conservatives would really appreciate it.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  8. Paul Williamson

    This college will be nothing but a distant memory in ten years, like so many other Catholic colleges that are still living in the age of the inquisition.Young people will choose to go elsewhere; 99% of Catholics use contraception, that leaves the 1%, and they will not have medical insurance.Life is hard; it is even harder when you are stupid, like this college.

    May 17, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Bob

      intresting that they are against paying for contraception and sterilization, but have payed for insurance that covered a vasectomy
      for years. Is it only women's reproductive issues that offend the Bishops?

      May 17, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Jon

      That's funny because I attended this school and it's got a waiting list to get into, unlike most other universities in the country. Every year they try to figure out how to deal with getting more students in because they're turning too many away. Seems that not everyone in the U.S. (or that reads CNN) is a liberal socialist like 99% of the commentators here. Funny thing is that all of you would be crying foul if the gov't tried to force you to pay for something that you were religiously against- but since it's not you there's no problem with it (interesting how so many of you are so openly anti-Catholic but I'd be willing to be most of you also preach being accepting of all opinions...). What a bunch of hypocrites!

      May 17, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  9. goddog

    They dropped the student's coverage because of money and used the Health Care law as an excuse to look morally honorable. The truth is, in regard to the staff, the employees can use the money they get paid from the church to purchase any number of "sinful" things privately, including birth control. So the church still is providing access to and payment of birth control no matter where along the supply chain they want to be viewed. All the talk about conscience and moral objection is for show.

    May 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • sharon

      The church dropped the student's coverage because they didn't care to finance it. The church seems to be terribly selective in following it's rules, from the Pope on down.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • A Serpent's Thought

      And so the world does turn and people evolve toward revolutionary toils. We are the lemmings of the pied piper and we all will be sent passed the cliff's edge! Screw that! I'd raher be a lion with an abundance of lionesses for their being the prides of my Life! Proudly I am and proud will I be for there is nothing that will ever stop me! (Cept Life here upon a rock)

      May 17, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  10. Dan

    Guess Leaches and Blood Letting are to much Money.

    May 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  11. O Really Now

    Does this mean the college will stop asking for federal money too? No more federally subsidized loans?

    May 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • sarah

      Of course not. Don't be silly. They want gov't money. They approve of welfare, socialism and national healthcare. They just don't like BC. Financial conservatives who think they've found an alley in the Catholic Church are sorely mistaken.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  12. willy

    It seems they are not trying to stop people from using contraceptives but they are refusing to pay for it. Pay out of your own money and use all you want.

    May 17, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • anon

      I believe in respecting people's religious beliefs, but I don't think there is scripture even remotely prohibiting birth control, is there?

      May 17, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • willy

      I do not really know where scripture prohibits birth control before conception. I think that is a catholic thing. But making them pay for something that they think is wrong seems wrong.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • lunchbreaker

      You could eat healthier and excercise more and need to go to the doctor less. Gluttony is a sin right? Maybe they should cancel the insurance because they have to pay for healthcare related to being overweight.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • sarah

      There is no scripture that says you can't have BC. There are plenty of Christian religions that allow it. The fact is, its the pope that says otherwise and its the pope that can change that ruling. Most Catholics disagree with the pope and use it anyway. Most Catholics vote democrat. This is their move against the church.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  13. sarah

    This is just more of the catholic church waging war on its own people. Most Catholics use BC and the bishops know it. But hey, if they want to implode on themselves, then have at it.

    May 17, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • kgb24peeps

      Sarah – please explain how birth control (for contraceptive purposes) is a medical need that should be covered under health insurance.

      May 17, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  14. dtboy

    Good for the school. I hope more, churches, schools and businesses drop coverage as a way to oppose this healthcare enslavement under the guise of "doing what's right."

    May 17, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Thats the spirit...F the students but make sure the staff still has that Satanic coverage!

      May 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Bebe

      How denying health coverage to students is "the right thing," I cannot comprehend. Conscience is a strange thing; coverage was dropped for students but not for the administration. I would call that a rather inconsistent conscience. In all this health care discussion, another fact has been forgotten: many Catholic schools have been offering insurance that covered birth control for many years in a number of states, including New York where despite the recent brouhaha, not a peep was heard about this until now. I find this strong evidence of the Church's foray into politics on the matter (nothing new); if it were a truly religious issue, there would have been objections years ago.

      In addition, since more than 90 percent of Catholic women actually use birth control, there is much to be cynical about in this matter. And when families make such decisions, I suspect they don't take their local priest into their confidence. Nor does anyone believe that it is a sin for a priest if one of his parishioners uses birth control.

      The only accomplishment this small Ohio school can lay claim to is cutting off its nose to spite its face. And lest we forget-only for its students.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • JLS639

      Churches are exempt already. Let the schools drop Federal funding if they don't want to play by Federal rules.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • skytag

      Brainwashed troll alert.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  15. ME

    Did the insurance ever cover vasectomies for men? If so, then it is wrong to deny birth control to women!

    May 17, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • jbmar1312

      I don't know and you don't know so why is it a concern at this point?

      May 17, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • anon

      I've never heard of an insurance company covering vasectomies. It would be a pretty generous company that did. I doubt not having a vasectomy would EVER put a mans life in danger if a pregnancy were to occur, as it theoretically could with a woman. The worst that could happen is his wallet gets a bit thinner, which also happens to be the ONLY thing that gets thinner on the mom as well. I've known insurance companies who were even stingy with covering life or death reproductive issues with women.

      People need to realize that the bottom line with ANY company is to make money. Health insurance companies are not and really SHOULD NOT be on some sort of utopian quest to make the world a healthier place. It's not their job. None of us are any different. We want to make as much money as we can for our families and for extra non necessities if possible. If our nation really cared about fairness and decency we would refuse to allow the govt. to act as hired henchmen in taking what someone else worked hard to earn and giving it to us in the form of welfare checks.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • anthonyzarat

      No. Here are some highlights:

      Bith control for women yes, birth control for men no.
      Tubal ligation for women yes, vasectomy for men no.
      Smoking cessation for women yes, smoking cessation for men no.
      Cancer prevention for girls yes, cancer prevention for men no.
      Violence prevention for women yes, violence prevention for men no.
      Breast health for women yes, prostate health for men no.
      Well woman visits yes, well man visits no.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  16. CT

    They are free to choose. Students are free to go.

    Liberals can't understand that.

    May 17, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • bobby

      No while they skip out on taxes to hide pedofiles

      May 17, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • anon

      Well, fortunately this is a college and not a nursing home, which means they are dropping coverage for kids who SHOULD be at the healthiest times in their lives. Thank goodness for that much, though I know freak diseases and accidents can happen at any age group.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  17. Joe

    CNN is squelching moderate conversation on this topic, approving only the most inflammatory statements from both sides. Despite the disclaimer at the bottom of this page, comments are being screened, especially by name and email. If this makes it through, take heed, and abandon this BS forum... they're just using you to increase their page-views.

    May 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • mandarax

      There is no live moderator, so I don't think that can be what's really happening. What might be happening is that you have secret forbidden words embedded in otherwise harmless words. For example, constltution has "t.it" in it. Desp.icable has "sp.ic" in it. You have to divide those up as I have done here.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  18. HeavenSent

    Catholics are going to hell.


    May 17, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • chris

      You think that might be a bit judgemental?

      May 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      No not really. God tells me and I don't question his voice.


      May 17, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • pjusa

      Heaven, it's time for your breastfeeding.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  19. sarah

    Ok. So if the 200 students approve of the measure and seek healthcare somewhere else, where does the protest part come in again?

    May 17, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  20. Ploy

    Good to hear. Now maybe attendance will drop, teachers will quit and suddenly the school close it's doors.

    May 17, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • rc roeder

      This is the schools choice, I would never look for a job without heatlh care. I will assume that many of the faculity may be changing jobs or maybe the school is increasing the salery to compensate and lowering tuition. I doubt it however. They can pray to get healthy

      May 17, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • anon

      Attendance WON'T drop. They will receive a huge swell of support both financial and moral. Others will do the same thing. This healthcare law, while idealistic and good looking on paper, will be a disaster!! Why can't people see that? Europe tried the same thing, and their utopia is falling apart. It's not JUST from socialized medicine, but socialized EVERYTHING. It looks great, but for some bizarre reason, attempted socialistic utopias just don't work. Maybe some of us are just watching too much star trek and are thinking that's what real life will and should be? I used to be a young, idealistic dreamer, but age and time has hardened me. Life isn't fair, was never meant to be. There are going to be winners and losers in this game and that's just the way it is. 🙁

      Any kind of stand taken in this country for conservative type ideals ALWAYS succeeds and flourishes. Modern liberal ideas, on the other hand, always seem to languish and wither away.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • sarah

      anon, you do understand that while the church is opposed to BC... they are not opposed to socialism, welfare, universal healthcare, raising taxes on the rich and so on. According to the church, billionaires have committed a mortal sin by being so rich. You completely misunderstand the church's intentions and why they are "protesting".

      May 17, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • skytag

      anon, every other industrialized country, even those outside Europe, has universal health care and nothing in any of those countries is falling apart due to their health care systems. You've been brainwashed to believe a lot of nonsense. Are you a Tea Party person?

      May 17, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
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About this blog

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.