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. Nancy

    Convenient excuse to save money. The university is keeping coverage for employees hoping for a successful challenge? So they are okay for now with employees exercising health care choices that may include contraception, but not with students doing the same. Funny how flexible "morality" can be.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • gerald

      Students are enrolling for the fall now so they have to do it now.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  2. Kevin Barbieux

    They are just following Jesus' commandment to be spiteful when unable to get their way.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  3. Zedag

    I wonder how much this university gets from the Federal Government.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  4. ridiculous

    Notice how the university did NOT drop health insurance coverage for its employees, only the students. They obviously realize that adult employees would take offense at not having access to health insurance, while students are still naive enough to not protest. Hopefully, many of the students will retain health insurance coverage from their parents...

    I love how they rationalize ""We’re paying the health insurance company, and if they provide abortion-causing drugs, that’s against our religious beliefs,"Sofio said Wednesday." Isn't it the students who are ultimately paying fort heir own insurance through their tuition??

    May 17, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • gerald

      THey didn't do that yet because that is being fought in the courts. They had to do this now because students are enrolling for fall now and will have to get health insurance now.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • gerald

      Nobody wants to take a stand on anything anymore and criticizes those who do. God bless Stubenville!

      May 17, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • FauxNews

      "The school is ALSO dropping its health insurance plan for students "

      Read the article, it's dropping insurance for everyone...Thanks Obamie.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  5. Ethics Board

    What's even worse is that if you attend The Franciscan University of Steubenville, you have no chance of getting a real job where you can afford healthcare once you graduate.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  6. John robbit

    Let's all sing a round of Every Sperm is Sacred.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  7. typical

    Christians always want to be a victim... then be one.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  8. Dragon88

    momoya, you are quite the hater, aren't you.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • W

      She's right though...

      May 17, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • momoya

      Not at all, but when an organization this powerful PROTECTS AND HIDES child abusers?!!? No, fvck 'em.. Maybe there's lots of folks out there not bothered by that behavior, but that doesn't affect my feelings towards child abusers and their enablers.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  9. Knucklehead

    Whether they have to cover it or not, it's still the individual's decision to use it. They don't seem as concerned about that as they are about allowing pedophile's to put the robes on. I hope all their employees quit.

    Hopefully once the Republicans are swept out we can go to the public option and take care of this once and for all.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:09 am |

    And they wonder why members are leaving the church in droves.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Luch

      wrong Catholic Church membership is actually grwoing..case in point this past Easter over a hunderd thousand people in the US were received into the chuch

      May 17, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Lisa B

      Luth, do you have anything to back up your statement? You know, facts, those pesky little things that offer proof of what you are saying.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  11. Nagrad

    Consider this a form of Darwinism. First off, they won't be able to attract qualified employees without offering health insurance. Secondly... they increase their health risks because without insurance people tend not to go in for regular checkups and preventative care. So, they can't attract new people and their existing people die off faster. Great, I see no problem here at all!

    May 17, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • gerald

      I would be much more concerned about the darwinism of the health care mandate. Think about it.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  12. Peteyroo

    Child abuse OK–contraception not OK

    May 17, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • gerald

      Um excuse me, where in Catholic teaching does it say that child abuse is okay. Hello...Mcfly....

      May 17, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Dystopia

      Bad comparisson. That would be like blaming Obama for every bad thing a african american does. Maybe the press corps should ask him to explain it all

      May 17, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  13. olepi

    They're keeping it for themselves, showing that the so-called "moral" issue isn't that important. They're only cutting it for students, based on cost.

    If it was truly based on a moral issue, the employees and administrators would immediately drop their tainted, evil health coverage. They didn't.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Jim

      I agree 100%! We are protesting blah bah, but we aren't dropping coverage for ourselves, only the students...and actually because of cost....blah blah.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  14. Wayne Dudley

    The catholic church says: Now leave us alone and let us molest little boys damnit !

    May 17, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  15. Sigh

    Good riddance – it they don't want to play by the rules, they shouldn't play.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • momoya

      Then they should give up their tax-exempt status.. You can't have it both ways..

      May 17, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • Dragon88

      I know a lot of people who enjoy tax exempt status and disagree with the government on issues.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • momoya

      I'm sure that you do.. Who cares?? What has that to do with what I said?

      May 17, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Dragon88

      momoya, it has everything to do with what you said. They disagree with the government and did somehting about it, so they should give up their tax exempt status?

      May 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  16. mandarax

    Religion poisons everything. Even basic healthcare.

    May 17, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • gerald

      contraceptives and abortion pills aren't basic health care. Preganacy is a healthy state of a woman and if she does not want to get pg there is a very effective way of doing it.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      According to Catholic mythology, pulling out is verboten and abstinence is not an effective form of birth control.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Lisa B

      gerald, birth control pills do more for women than prevent pregnancy. That may be their primary use, but not their only use. And, as far as there being another effective way of doing it (i'm assuming you're referring to abstinence here), it takes more than a woman by herself to get pregnant. Pregnancy prevention isn't just a womans issue. She can't get pregnant by herself. If more men were also practicing abstinance, the women wouldn't have anyone to impregnate them! It works both ways. Go back to your cave please!

      May 17, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • mandarax

      How about HIV, Gerald. Is that a healthy state?

      May 17, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  17. Thomas


    May 17, 2012 at 9:46 am |
  18. I'm The Best!

    If they don't want to have to provide the healthcare then they should get out of the private sector and stick to just churches. If the church wants to put its fingers in things other than the church itself then it needs to abide by the same laws everyone else does.

    May 17, 2012 at 9:42 am |
  19. mdn

    I wonder what the Catholic position is on priests sodomizing children?

    May 17, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • momoya

      No need to wonder.. Simply observe the record of their behavior over the past several decades.. They do more for children molestation than NAMBLA does.

      May 17, 2012 at 9:38 am |

      thats a dumb question its doggy-style

      May 17, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  20. Jt_flyer

    There are many things that influence a persons decision to attend a particular colege or university. This is one. However, young people of college age and generally are in good health, value this service less than older people.

    May 17, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • momoya

      I'm not sure what that has to do with an inst.itution of higher learning acting like a spoiled brat taking their ball and going home because the sun's in their eyes when they turn to the left.

      May 17, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • i work at a college

      And the youth are not so health as you might think. Athletic injuries for one, they live in bunches so that disease travels quickly, they don't take care of themselves, don't get much sleep, eat poorly, etc. etc. They need health care, but now they will just have to pay for it. The wealthy students WILL have their own insurance. And guess who won't: The poor and the international students.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:14 am |
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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.