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. mandarax

    "The abstinence-only approach to s.ex education
    is not supported by the extensive body of scientific
    research on what works to protect young
    people from HIV/AIDS, se.xually transmitted infections
    (STIs), and unplanned pregnancy. An
    assessment of the peer-reviewed, published
    research reveals no evidence that abstinence only
    programs delay se.xual initiation or reduce
    STIs or pregnancy."

    ht tp://ari.ucsf.edu/science/reports/abstinence.pdf

    May 16, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
  2. WOT

    All you hopocrites are the same : there should be no federal students loans at you university either!

    May 16, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      You rock WOT!

      May 16, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
  3. Fargon

    I'm pretty sure Jesus would'nt punish the innocent this way and I don't even believe in him. Once again, religion IS the problem. Fargon

    May 16, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      You rock Fargon!

      May 16, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  4. critical thinker

    Most educated Catholics practice contraception prohibited by the Pope and the Catholic church...and that's a fact. The rhythm method just doesn't cut it with educated Catholic adults in the 21st century.

    May 16, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      "rhythm method"

      Wow, haven't heard that since the 50's!

      May 16, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • seanarago

      How you know this is factual is interesting and the theological technicalities of what a Catholic is can also get fuzzy. The rhythm method isn't used by anyone I know; much more technical and biological techniques are used now. More importantly, why are so many people so hostile about this decision. Notice the lack of protest by the students? It's a private university that takes no money from the government. What happened to freedom of choice?

      May 16, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      "Notice the lack of protest by the students?"

      Hello? It is a religious college or don't you understand?

      May 16, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • momoya

      The rhythm method doesn't work because the entire biology of a billion years of evolution is against it.. When a woman like myself is most fertile is also when she is the most receptive to s3xual relations.. In estrus, a woman flirts, uses more makeup, and does anything in her power to make s3x more likely.. Suck on that, pedo catholics.

      May 16, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
  5. chupacabra

    What a great opportunity for these students to find a better school!

    May 16, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
  6. careaboutmyself

    Ohio....and I thought that the Unites States of America had more power over a single church.....isn't that what the American Revolution was all about????

    May 16, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  7. Chuck

    no meat on Friday
    no women priests
    the earth is still the center of the universe
    And of course the vatican is the center of all knowledge

    May 16, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • careaboutmyself

      With a really stupid (and smelly...i know because the git is my third cousin) leader at its helm.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
  8. critical thinker

    The Catholic church believes life before birth is sacred, but fair game for priests after birth. The Catholic church is only interested in protecting its financial assets in pedophile cases.

    May 16, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  9. mema

    They show that they have absolutely no trust in their students that are Catholic. Its quite simple really they can opt to not use what they do not agree with. But to drop coveeage to prove some point is selfish. They state that its also due to rising health care costs and blame the Obama Health Plan but for the last ten years or more my plan goes up an incredible amount each year. So much so that I have not really benefited much from cost of living raises. Its not this plan alone raising cost thats old news. It started long before the Obama plan. What I can say is that all my kids are covered now and that has really been helpfull, Ill enjoy that for as long as it lasts.

    May 16, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      It's not about health care, it's about religion.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • critical thinker

      @voice of reason – only if you believe the Pope is superior to Jesus Christ.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      @critical thinker

      Of course he is, isn't he?

      May 16, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
  10. Job

    Folks, you are not getting it. This college has figured a way to exclude those whose socioeconomic status will exclude them from attending this college. The student population will become more and more white, affluent and less diverse. And, best yet, we can now blame this all on the big bad black man, who, prior to even being sworn in, was targeted by the right wing traitors to our country.

    May 16, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • Portland tony

      Not for the reported premium of $50 and only 200 of 2500 students bought their insurance through the college.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      Can you expand on that?

      May 16, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Job

      $50/month, not a year. And you want proof? Proof of what? CDBO (Center to Defeat Barack Obama), Rush Llimbaugh, various US Senators (Repuglican), US Congressmen (Repuglican) etc, etc, etc,,

      May 16, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • Voice of Reason


      Settle down there kitty cat, I just wanted to hear a little more, that's all.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  11. Willa45

    If someone finds contraceptives offensive, by all means don't use them, don't buy insurance and don't work in a condom factory, but refrain from dictating your beliefs to people of other faiths. Insurance companies have to serve everyone, not just Catholics. That is why we have separation of Church and State.. So what's next? Will the Church boycott pharmaceutical companies where contraceptives are manufactured or perhaps the drugstores where they are sold? Are Catholics going to be forbidden to work in pharmacies because contraceptives are sold there? This entire issue is absolutely ridiculous!!!

    May 16, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      This is the beginning of the next holy war.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • mema

      Actually yes. There have been several reports of pharmacy employees not wanting to sell the contraceptives or plan B pill due to their religious views. Im Christian but how rediculous can you be. Its not your business what customers use. Its your job to provide a doctor approve script. If you dont agree with it dont use it yourself or find a new job. With that line of reason you can not even go to a gas station or grocery store because they sell condoms?! One things for sure their job prosoects

      May 16, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • mema

      Oops......prospects must really be looking bleak right about now.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • Voice of Reason


      Don't worry, jesus still loves you.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  12. critical thinker

    Meanwhile, the pedophilic priests run wild. A classic case of bait and switch to divert attention from the real Catholic pandemic.

    May 16, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  13. Portland tony

    This post affects 200 students.....My question is how does the Vatican handle this issue in the EU or other nations with single payer provisions and are non-secular by definition?

    May 16, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
  14. William Watts

    I assume the dropping of the student healthcare was really a budget decision, wrapped in "against our religious belief" BS. I can only wonder if the Steubenville Franciscans will be giving up their insurance?

    May 16, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • momoya

      Why assume that?? They claim to have acted childishly because of spite.. Why assume otherwise?

      May 16, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  15. Gezellig

    Well since the student's can stay on their parent's plans, what difference does it make?

    May 16, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • momoya

      The difference is that this college is acting like a 3 year old on a menopausal bee-atch fest.. "I'll just take my ball and go home" type of sh!t.. What the fvck do the they think this is, preschool?? What sort of azzholes do something like this?? The RCC, that's the sort of azzholes.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • fred

      open mouth insert soap

      May 16, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • momoya

      Better than what the priests say to little children, isn't it?? If my language and outrage will help just one person not entrust their child to the RCC and expose them to some pedo priest, then it's worth it.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:26 pm |

    OH...don't worry...a lot of businesses will be dropping eployee coverage over the healthcare law...and then what will working people do? Answer...they will be forced to buy some plan out of their own pocket. Thanks to Obama and the dems!

    May 16, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • Andrew

      this is not the presidents fault...wow... A place of employment is punishing theiremployees because the disagree with a law...a law that only benifits people and in now way effects them except a relgous belief. So they get to punish their employees because of god...yea thats obamas fault.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:14 pm |

      Who signed the law that "helps" people? Obama...who wrote the law and passed it....the democrats. Yes it is his and their fault Andy!

      May 16, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • momoya

      It's nobody's fault but the organization's when they decide to act like a two-year old and make decisions based on spite.. Christian my azz.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • William Watts

      This really has nothing to do with Obama...get over it. After 9/11 many businesses cut employee perks and needs, one was bottled water, and claimed it was because of 9/11/ Lots of parks & sports venues would no longer allow people to bring in their own food or WATER because of 9/11 & supposedly the terrorist threat. Of course $$$ had nothing to do with that either.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  17. bethjoyce

    That's a pretty stupid move on their part. But what would you expect? Are Catholics known for cutting off their noses to spite themselves?

    May 16, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
  18. Right.

    So, did they also lower college tuition since they are no longer "paying" for health insurance? I don't know how that college operates, but at my college, I had to pay at least part of the coverage through my tuition, or as a separate fee during graduate school.

    May 16, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Andrew

      Most college insurances are around 100 dollars for coverage, for a semester. At least the two i went to where. And I was able to opt out of the coverage for both and not incur that fee...and one of the schools was a Lutheran college.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      Great point!

      May 16, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
  19. MP

    It is similar to Islam. Against women!!! What's wrong with religions.

    May 16, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  20. Bob

    You've got to love a religion that doesn't care who it hurts as long as it supports antiquated dogmas.

    May 16, 2012 at 9:05 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.