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Belmont Abbey College strikes abortion, contraception from insurance policy

BELMONT, S.C. (The Catholic News & Herald) — Health care coverage contradictory to Catholic Church teaching has been removed from Belmont Abbey College.

In December 2007, college officials realized the college employee health care plan covered abortion, contraception and voluntary sterilization.

“As soon as we discovered this, we immediately removed these procedures and prescriptions from the health care plan provided by the college for our employees,” said Dr. William Thierfelder, college president, in a letter to faculty, staff, students and alumni.

Founded in 1876, the Catholic Benedictine Belmont Abbey College is consistently ranked one of the best liberal arts colleges in the South by U.S. News and World Report and The Princeton Review.

Abbot Placid Solari, head of the monastic community at Belmont Abbey and chancellor of its college, met last month with college faculty and staff to explain the reasons behind the change in policy.

Late in 2007, the college’s health insurance provider changed the cost and structure of its coverage for college employees. In reviewing the new paperwork, a faculty member noticed the policy covered abortion, contraception and voluntary sterilization.

It was later discovered that the particular coverage had been in place for some time.

“Something we all regret and for which we apologize,” said Thierfelder.

Catholic identity issue

College officials are unable to determine when and how the coverage got into the policy.

“When this discovery was brought to the attention of Abbot Placid, he and I immediately asked our health insurance provider to eliminate coverage for abortion, contraception and voluntary sterilization from the college’s group medical plan,” he said.

“It is the clear, consistent, incontrovertible, public, official and authoritative teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that abortion, contraception and voluntary sterilization are actions which are intrinsically wrong and should not be undertaken because of their very nature,” said Thierfelder.

“As a Roman Catholic institution, Belmont Abbey College is not able to and will not offer nor subsidize medical services that contradict the clear teaching of the Catholic Church.”

Since the policy change, eight faculty members filed formal complaints with various state and federal agencies, demanding the reinstatement of these coverages, said Thierfelder.

The group filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming the change in insurance benefits was an act of discrimination on the basis of their religion or sex.

The college has retained legal counsel regarding the EEOC complaints.

The National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C., has threatened a lawsuit against the college on behalf of the eight faculty members. The college, however, will not reinstate the coverage.

“As a Catholic College sponsored by the monks of Belmont Abbey, Belmont Abbey College will not offer nor subsidize these coverages. To do so would be to act contrary to the college’s stated mission and identity,” said Thierfelder.

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This story was made available to Catholic Online by permission of The Catholic News & Herald (www.charlottediocese.org/catholicnews.html), official newspaper of the Diocese of Charlotte, N.C.

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1 - 2 of 2 Comments

  1. Susan Peterson
    5 years ago

    A Muslim employer should be able to require that its employees wear the hajib...or even a burka, if they really think anyone can work in that. They might have difficulty getting employees, but that is their problem.

    I don't think one can generalize from issues of discrimination between races to discrimination between the sexes. A black man and a white man are the same in every essential way. A man and a woman are not the same in every essential way. Certainly prostate medication is not equivalent to contraceptive pills. Prostate medication is designed to restore proper function to an organ.

    Contraceptive pills destroy or inhibit the proper function of the organs they target! The only equivalent of the birth control pill would be a pill which rendered a man temporarily sterile. You cannot expect a religious school to pay for the provision of something which they consider intrinsically immoral. Belmont Abbey may have lost the case, but they cannot comply with the directive. So what are the consequences?

  2. jimmy
    5 years ago

    Belmont Abbey lost the case and the EEOC action was correct. Nobody asked the college to reinstate coverage for abortions or sterilization, the only issue was contraception coverage. This was not decided on religious issues but rather discrimination under the civil rights act under established standards. It is generally accepted that if an employer pays for diseases unique to blacks, i.e. sickle cell, it should pay for those unique to hispanics, asians, and whites. In this case the EEOC ruled that if the college pays for any prescription used by men, for example prostate cures, it should also pay for any medicine used by women, including birth control pills. The government cannot and should not consider one particular group's religious issues, especially at this college where the majority of faculty and students are not Catholic. An employer should not impose its religious beliefs on employees, otherwise a Muslim business owner could force female employees to wear burqas.

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