Catholic Georgetown U. caves to HHS mandate


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 22, 2013 (LifeSiteNews) – Georgetown University, a Jesuit-affiliated Catholic school, has capitulated to the Obama administration’s demand that it offer full coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-causing drugs to its female students and faculty, without co-pay.

Catholic teaching forbids the use of such drugs and procedures, but a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) requires all employers offering health care coverage to include them at no extra charge. The controversial mandate has led to dozens of lawsuits by Catholic-owned schools and businesses against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), seeking to overturn the new rule. 

But Georgetown says it is satisfied with an “accommodation” offered by the Obama administration which requires the insurance companies of religious-affiliated employers who oppose contraception or abortion to provide the coverage for “free.”

Under the arrangement, Georgetown’s students and faculty will get the contraceptive coverage through their school-sponsored plans, but Georgetown won’t directly pay for it.  Additionally, the student health center will not offer sterilizing drugs or procedures, meaning those desiring them will have to go off campus to get them.  

“These regulations give us the opportunity to reconcile our religious identity and our commitment to providing access to affordable healthcare,” University President John J. DeGioia wrote in an email to staff and students last week.

However, the administration’s “accommodation” has been derided by numerous groups, including the country’s Catholic bishops, who have argued that it amounts to little more than an accounting gimmick. Critics have said while the coverage is being offered “for free” on paper, the insurance companies will simply pass the extra costs onto their customers in the form of higher premiums.

Georgetown junior Evelyn Flashner, who serves as the marketing chair for the campus Right to Life group, told the school newspaper that she thinks the university is making a mistake.

Flashner borrowed an analogy from Bishop William Lori to explain the problems with the Obama administration’s attempt at compromise, telling The Hoya, “There is a Jewish deli that doesn’t sell anything but kosher meat, but the government says, ‘You have to sell non-kosher meat.’  Everyone freaks out, but the government says, ‘Never mind, I take it back. Instead of having you sell kosher meat, we’re going to put a little kiosk in the middle of your store and sell non-kosher meat.’”

Said Flashner, “The university is violating its own principles as a Catholic institution on this issue … Georgetown is diverging from the opinion of the Catholic Church.  The new accommodation does not solve all the problems, and according to the [U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops], it doesn’t present a feasible version of religious liberty.”

In an email to LifeSiteNews, Cardinal Newman Society spokesman Adam Wilson also criticized the university’s choice to accept the Obama administration’s accomodation.  Wilson quoted Catholic author G.K. Chesterton, who wrote, “A dead thing goes with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” 

 “There's a strong correlation between the state of a university's Catholic identity and its ability and willingness to defend its religious freedom,” said Wilson. “At Georgetown, Catholic identity has eroded over the last few decades.  But many faithful Catholic universities, like those in our Newman Guide, are courageously fighting for religious freedom with lawsuits and public opposition to the HHS mandate.”