Franciscan University of Steubenville, a small Catholic university in eastern Ohio, has decided to no longer offer health insurance to its students rather than comply with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) birth control mandate.
"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 (PPACA). Up to this time, 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," the university posted in a message to students this week.
Current health policies will expire August 15, 2012. Fewer than 200 of the university's 2,500 students currently get their health insurance through the university, an official told Reuters.
The announcement also noted that the PPACA would require the maximum coverage amount for students to increase to $100,000, which would cause the cost of the premium to double next year. A university official told Fox News Radio that they expected the basic $600 policy to also triple in cost the year after next.
The HHS birth control mandate will require employers to provide health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization and some abortion inducing drugs. Colleges and universities that offer health insurance to students are also required to abide by the mandate.
Catholic doctrine proscribes the use of contraception, sterilization and abortion inducing drugs. While the birth control mandate has a religious exemption, the exemption is written so narrowly that most Catholic institutions, including Catholic colleges and universities, would not be exempt.
Catholic institutions are not the only ones opposed to the mandate. Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, which represents Protestant Christian colleges and universities, has also been active, along with their member institutions, in opposing the mandate.
In February, President Obama offered to change the mandate. Religious institutions would no longer have to provide the coverage, but any of their employees would have to be provided the coverage, if they wanted it, by the health insurance provider at no additional charge.
Many religious institutions have responded that this proposal, which has yet to be codified, does not go far enough in protecting their religious freedom. They worry that they would still be paying for the services through higher premiums.
The Archdiocese of Washington called the mandate "the most direct challenge to religious liberty in recent history," in a statement Tuesday.
Talks are apparently still taking place between the White House and religious groups to find a reasonable compromise.
"This is putting people in a position where they are having to choose between their faith and their morality, and now an unjust cost," Mike Hernon, Franciscan University's vice president of advancement, told Fox News Radio. "These sorts of regulations from the government are forcing our hand in a way that's really wrong."