.- Ave Maria University has become the second Catholic college to announce it will discontinue its student health insurance plan due to the Obama administration’s contraception mandate.
In a May 21 statement, university president Jim Towey called the mandate “an affront to our core values.”
“Ave Maria University will not offer or pay for health insurance plans that violate our deeply-held religious beliefs,” he said.
The announcement comes amid continued controversy over a federal insurance mandate that will require employers and colleges to offer health care plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.
The mandate has been widely criticized for the threat that it poses to religious freedom. Catholic schools, hospitals and charitable agencies have warned that they will be forced to consider closing their doors rather than comply with the mandate and act against the beliefs.
In choosing to cut its student health insurance plan, Ave Maria is following in the footsteps of Franciscan University of Steubenville, which also recently announced that it would be dropping its student policy to avoid participating in a plan that violated Catholic teaching.
Towey said it was “regrettable” that the “long-standing tradition” of protecting religious freedom was being fiercely attacked and that college students at religious institutions would be among the “first victims.”
He explained that since its founding, Ave Maria University has offered its students an inexpensive health insurance policy, which specifically excludes coverage of products and procedures that violate Church teaching.
However, that changed when the university was recently notified by its insurance carrier that coverage of these objectionable “preventive care services” would soon be required despite the school’s religious opposition to them.
In addition, the insurance carrier said that university students would face both a 66 percent increase in their premiums and an increase in their deductible as a result of requirements under the Affordable Care Act.
“It is a sad day when Ave Maria’s students are forced to choose between enrolling in a health insurance plan that is both costly and offers morally objectionable benefits, and having no coverage at all,” said Towey.
Ave Maria filed a lawsuit seeking relief from the mandate in February. Towey said he is confident in the favorable outcome of the suit and applauded the other Catholic groups that have joined in the effort of “taking this battle to the courts.”
On May 21, a wave of new lawsuits against the mandate was announced. Forty-three Catholic dioceses and organizations across the country are filing lawsuits in 12 different jurisdictions.
Bishops from dioceses across the country have warned that the contraception mandate could threaten the valuable contribution offered by Catholic education, health care and social services in the U.S.
Towey also addressed this point, explaining that Ave Maria University offers scholarships and strives to make its education as affordable as possible for students.
“At a time when the issue of the affordability of college education is at the forefront of the public debate, the Federal government’s mandate is hurting the cause, not helping,” he said.