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Gonzaga Drops Direct Contraceptive Coverage, Still Complies with HHS Mandate

David Galalis

Catholic Education Daily - published on 12/18/13

The university accepts the "accommodation" proposed by the Obama administration but rejected by the US Catholic bishops.

Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., has reversed its decision to directly provide insurance for contraceptives but assured employees that they will still have access to the coverage through Obamacare, according to a letter sent out by Gonzaga’s human resources department and obtained by The Cardinal Newman Society.

In November of last year, Gonzaga University President Thayne McCulloh announced that the Jesuit University would directly pay for “contraceptive services.”

At the time, the University stated that it was a controversial decision given what they termed “Gonzaga’s active commitment to its Catholic and Jesuit identity” and “the Catholic Church’s clear and unambiguous prohibition against contraception.”

It was a stunning announcement, given that the bishops and several other Catholic colleges at that moment were fighting the Obama administration in both court and for public opinion.

Now the University is reversing itself somewhat with its announcement that, because of what it called the Obama administration’s “accommodation,” Premera Blue Cross will assume the cost of contraceptive coverage for Gonzaga employees as of January 1, 2014.

Jim Infantine of the 1887 Trust, an organization committed to promoting Gonzaga’s Catholic identity, told The Cardinal Newman Society that the so-called “accommodation” is hardly one at all.

He pointed out that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops found the “accommodation” completely inadequate and even the University of Notre Dame found the “accommodation” so wanting that it recently re-filed its lawsuit against the mandate.

“Gonzaga's approach to this issue is not consistent with the bishops' collective efforts,” said Infantine, “and is certainly not an approach that gives evidence of an institution with a vibrant concern for its Catholic identity.”

Ironically, despite its 2012 decision to directly pay for contraceptive coverage, Gonzaga in its recent letter took some credit for the Obama administration’s so-called “accommodation.” The letter from Human Resources stated, “the ‘accommodation’ provided for the final regulations constitutes a concession made in direct response to the input of religious institutions such as Gonzaga.”

Infantine said, “It seems as though Gonzaga's HR department is suggesting that the school's input helped change the government's policy in a way that created a partial victory for Gonzaga.”

Gonzaga is just the latest Catholic college to recently announce that it is reassessing its health coverage plans.

Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Calif., announced in late August that it was dropping abortion coverage. After protests from faculty and staff and nationwide media coverage, the board of trustees voted to drop abortion coverage in its standard health plans but to also offer a separate plan covering abortion for employees who elect to pay for it. Santa Clara University also announced that it is dropping abortion coverage from its health insurance plan.

More recently, St. Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif., a liberal arts institution run by the Christian Brothers of St. John Baptist de La Salle, announced that it too was reassessing its coverage plans.

Originally published by Catholic Education Daily of the Cardinal Newman Society.

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