The Obamacare provision that requires insurance companies to cover contraceptive services with no additional co-pay has broad public support, but has still remained one the most politically contentious aspects of the health reform law. Despite the fact that the Obama Administration provides an exemption for religiously-affiliated organizations that may object to covering birth control, religious organizations across the country have continued to resist Obamacare.
Those fights over birth control have been spearheaded by religious universities and for-profit organizations, despite the fact that those types of institutions may have hundreds of students or employees who don’t share the same objection to contraceptive services. Obamacare opponents have been going to extreme lengths to drag out the largely failed “religious liberty” fight.
In fact, one Roman Catholic university in Ohio, Franciscan University, actually dropped health coverage for its entire student body last year simply because its officials were afraid of “one day having to provide coverage for contraception.” A federal judge recently dismissed Franciscan University’s lawsuit against the federal government and blasted its decision to deny health insurance plans from its more than 2,500 students:
U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley sided with the government, saying the groups couldn’t prove they would ever likely suffer the harm they allege. He noted that 15 other federal courts have already ruled similar lawsuits weren’t timely and most of those 15 decisions determined the groups filing the lawsuits lacked jurisdiction.
The judge also criticized Franciscan University over its decision in May to drop its student health insurance program out of fear of one day having to provide coverage for contraception.
Marbley said the university can’t argue harm based on “a phantom specter” created by its own fears, which the government has stated are unsubstantiated, Marbley said.
“It is gravely unfortunate that Franciscan’s students have lost the opportunity to receive health insurance coverage from the University,” the judge said.
Overall, the Catholic Church has actually been largely supportive of efforts to expand access to health care, which the Church considers to be a basic human right. During the political battle to pass the Affordable Care Act, Catholic nuns filed a brief in support of the health reform law, explaining that the government has a “moral imperative” to ensure care for people who cannot afford insurance. The Catholic bishops have obviously taken issue with some provisions of the reform law, but they also admit that they can “recognize the good present in the bill.”
However, rather than weigh the positive effects of health coverage against their opposition to birth control, Franciscan University simply decided to throw out its student health insurance plans altogether. And university officials show no signs of letting up, despite their defeat in court. As Father Terence Henry, Franciscan’s president, said in a statement, “We will not stop fighting this unjust mandate, and we are in this for the long haul.”