The Belmont Abbey College administration is refusing to provide contraceptives to female employees. Although health care needs are covered through the campus health insurance, women are being denied access to preventative reproductive care. Of course I am not all that surprised considering the religious affiliation of this school. Apparently the Catholic belief of this particularly college campus is that women should be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen.
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has deemed these actions as a violation of discrimination laws because the school’s employee health insurance plan lacks coverage for contraception. An official letter was sent to the school, and recieved the following response from Mr. Thierfelder on the school web site.
“Belmont Abbey College rejects the notion that by following the moral teachings of the Catholic Church we are discriminating against anyone. We are simply and honestly exercising the freedom of religion that is protected by the Constitution.”
In a similar high profile case in 2004 involving Catholic institutions and contraception coverage, the California Supreme Court ruled that Catholic Charities was not a religious organization recognized by state law, and thus was required to provide access to contraception coverage. Women deserve access to reproductive health, and denying them that access via religious persecution is destructive for young women in this country.
This particular situation is certainly not one that exists in a vacuum. Women all over the United States are being denied access to contraceptives because of religious justifications. Hell, women can literally be denied the pill because their pharmacist has religious and ethical objections to a woman taking responsibility for her health. What frustrates me the most is the fundamental fear of women’s sexuality that is present in this denial of contraceptives. It’s the age old argument that women with access to contraceptives turn into sluts who can’t keep their legs closed. The psychological impact this has on women’s perception of themselves is outrageous. It teaches them that their body, health, and sexual choices is not their own — it is always belonging to a larger institution, whether that be men, the state, or the church.
Regardless of the religious affiliation behind Belmont Abbey College, the health care services provided to each employee should be comprehensive and should have the best interest of the employees at mind. Denying women the ability to take care of their own bodies has deterimental physical and psychological consequences that no person should be subject to.
Andrew (AJ) is a vehement progressive, youth activist, and reproductive justice organizer. When he's not busy with the movement, you can usually find him dancing in the club or watching trashy reality tv.