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Franciscan University of Steubenville drops student health insurance

Even the statue of St. Francis looks ashamed of the university's actions.
Even the statue of St. Francis looks ashamed of the university's actions.
50 Prime, flickr (CC 2.0)

Franciscan University of Steubenville, a Catholic college in eastern Ohio, has announced that it will be dropping both the health insurance plan that it had previously offered to students as well as the requirement that undergraduates be covered by some health insurance plan. The university, located approximately 150 miles east of Columbus, has made this decision in response to the requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that insurance plans cover women’s health services, including contraceptives.

In doing so, Franciscan University is abandoning its student population and exposing them to great financial and health risks in order to score political points. While most traditional undergraduate students can still be covered under their parents’ insurance plans, those Franciscan students who cannot be have now lost their best option for health insurance at an affordable rate. In a statement presaging this decision, Terence Henry, President of Franciscan University, calls the PPACA an “unjust ruling” and a “betrayal of our country’s Constitution.” These politically poisonous turns of phrase highlight the true motives behind this decision.

Father Henry goes on to call the healthcare options that would be covered by this new mandate “intrinsically evil acts.” These are harsh words given that a recent study by the Guttmacher Institute shows that not only do a majority of women rely on birth control pills for more than just contraception, but that 14% of women, and one-third of teen girls, use birth control pills exclusively for reasons other than contraception. Some of the health reasons that women use birth control pills to relieve include painful or irregular menstrual periods, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and endometriosis, a condition that can cause intense abdominal pains, scarring, and infertility. Additionally, regular use of birth control pills can greatly reduce the chances of certain forms of cancer in women.

It is interesting to see that the prevention of infertility, the reduction of cancer, and even just relieving women of pain are, to Catholics, intrinsically evil acts.

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