Catholic Universities Gamble with Students’ Lives on their Campuses

By Francesca Witcher
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Once again Catholic institutions have decided to take young women’s choices and lives into their own hands.  Several Catholic institutions, dioceses and charities across the country have filed lawsuits against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) federal mandate that requires employers to provide birth control coverage in their health plans. Although insurance companies will pick up the costs for institutions refusing to pay for contraceptive coverage for religious reasons, these Catholic institutions still object to the mandate.

On Monday May 21st, Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio decided to drop student health insurance plans and no longer require full-time students to have health insurance starting this fall. The university released a statement saying, “. . .Franciscan University has specifically excluded these services and products from its student health insurance policy, and 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”.

As a result, students who depend on the university’s health insurance plan could be forced to pay out of pocket for their medical costs.

Ave Maria University, a Catholic university in Florida, another plaintiff, is considering following Franciscan University in denying students health care coverage. Notre Dame and The Catholic University of America are among the other universities that are suing the Obama Administration over the federal mandate. Although they have not yet taken the step to deny students health insurance coverage, they could take that route if courts uphold the federal mandate.

Other students at Catholic universities across the country could be impacted as well especially if their university is in one the archdioceses that have decided to sue. Some of the largest dioceses include New York, Michigan, Pittsburgh and Washington.

The decision by these universities and archdioceses is not only dangerous, but also shortsighted. At Feminist Majority Foundation’s 8th Annual National Young Feminist Leadership Conference we asked students to adopt a sister Catholic university in their region. If you have not done so already, now is the time to find an underground feminist group on a Catholic university campus in your region and organize with them to protest and lobby their administrations to drop opposition to the federal mandate and urge them to continue university health care coverage.

If you need help in locating feminists on a Catholic university in your region, please contact your National Campus Organizer for help!

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