Mandate change provokes religious issue with contraception services


Lingnan Chen

A woman stands in the hallway of University Medical Center Brackenridge, Saturday afternoon. A Friday revision of a federal mandate exempts religiously-affiliated organizations, such as the Brackenridge hospital, from covering contraceptive service costs for employees.

David Leffler

Federal policy mandating most employers to provide insurance coverage for contraceptive services to women has been altered, exempting religiously-oriented organizations from being responsible for covering the costs of such medication.

In a press conference on Friday, President Barack Obama announced the changes made to the federal mandate. Prior to the reversal, the President had faced criticism from members of the GOP, the Catholic Church and even many Democrats.

“If a woman works at a charity or religious hospital that objects to providing contraceptive services to her, the insurance company — not the charity, not the hospital — will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care,” Obama said.

Obama said the new version of the policy serves as a fair compromise in recognizing women’s rights while respecting religious values.

Jenny Kutner, Plan II senior and Texas Feminists president, said she thinks the mandate is an important step forward in providing more gender-equitable health care.

“I believe contraception should be accessible and affordable for all women who want it, and this mandate will help make that a reality,” she said.

Kutner said she does not support the changes made to the mandate.

“The mandate is not an attack on the Catholic Church, as it has been called, but rather an effort to allow women to take their health care into their own hands, regardless of where they work,” she said.

However, Monika Demkowicz, Plan II senior and Catholic Longhorns for Life president, said she does not believe the newest version of the mandate is acceptable.

“Churches and religious organizations will be forced to choose between providing insurance coverage that goes against their consciences and their faith or not providing insurance at all,” she said.

Demkowicz said in doing so, the federal government does not give religious institutions a real choice other than to violate their beliefs.

“Mandating religious organizations to provide for health ‘services’ that they are morally opposed to is a violation of conscience and religious liberty.”

Father Paul Kasun, priest in-residence at the St. Louis King of France Catholic Church and sociology graduate student, said he believes the issue is a wider question regarding sexuality.

“There’s a misunderstanding there. Contraception is not a dogma of the church, but instead relates to church doctrine,” he said.

Kasun said the Catholic Church is concerned with sustaining the quality of the relationship of married couples and ensuring that people are open to the possibility of life as a result of sexuality.

“Our doctrine is against things like condoms that are not open to the possibility of life,” he said.

Kasun said he is interested in how the issue will be settled.

“I see myself as being able to help people feel good about being Catholics and supporting our leadership,” Kasun said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how they resolve this.”

Printed on Monday, February 13, 2012 as: Contraception policy exempts religious affiliates