Belmont Abbey College Refuses to Provide Contraceptives

The Belmont Abbey College administration is refusing to provide contraceptives to female Belmont_Abbey_collegeemployees. 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.

About aj:
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.

Comments

  1. I must point out an inaccuracy in your post. The college is refusing to provide contraceptives to female EMPLOYEES, not students. The college never provided contraceptives for students, nor should it be required to. However, it SHOULD be required to provide prescription birth control for its employees if it wishes to continue to receive taxpayer money in the form of Federal Pell Grants and state financial aid.

  2. fyi, the post was recently edited to reflect more accurate information on the happenings at Belmont Abbey College. Employees of the campus are actually the one’s being denied reproductive coverage.

  3. AJ,

    Can’t say I was a fan of this post.

    Your characterization of Catholic teachings as wanting women to be “barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen,” is gratuitous. Additionally, the women in question are voluntarily agreeing to work at a Christian College, and in the event that they wanted to acquire birth control at some point after acquiring a job with said college, the only “discrimination” they suffer is that they have to pay for it on their own dime (the horror!), or quit and find an employer that does (which isn’t that hard given that nearly every other employer covers birth control medication.)

    It seems that you have a very narrow view of the word “choice.” You advocate the full use of the most patriarchal institution on the planet to force individuals and institutions to violate their own religious beliefs. A feminist who was truly for choice would recognize that just as it is immoral to legally prohibit women from exercising control over their own body, it is similarly immoral to force a person, or an institution, to purchase something for their employees that violates their religious beliefs. Choice swings BOTH ways.

  4. Will, your argument may serve some validity if it weren’t for the fact that Catholic institutions such as Belmont, recieve government funding in order to operate. As a stipulation for things like pell grants, Belmont Abbey College should be required to provide the type of health care that is absolutely vital for many women’s reproductive health.

    Additionally, calling me narrow minded here isn’t going to get you any further than it does in debate rounds. I stand strong by the belief that denying access to birth control is destructive to women’s health and a blatant marginalization of their specific health concerns. (It’s also interesting how most religious affiliations don’t seem to care too much about footing the bill for viagra).

    Your argument about “choosing” to be employed at a discriminatory places doesn’t change the fact that the institution is still discriminatory. There is nothing wrong with pointing that out. Additionally, this argument is incredibly regressive — it’s like telling someone who was fired based on their race or sexuality — “well your the one who chooooooooose to work for them.” I call bullshit.

    This type of behavior, and your defense of it, sets the groundwork for a world where it is acceptable for pharmacists with religious objections to birth control to deny women’s access to reproductive care, or a doctors ability to opt out of treating a patient because he or she is gay. Any institution that recieves ANY OUNCE of funding from the federal government should be held responsible for providing a safe space for its employees. Period.

  5. freewomyn says:

    AJ, I think you have a point, but I think the choice of words may be the problem.

    Catholic schools understandably restrict access to birth control – it’s against Catholic dogma to use birth control. However, you are on point about federal funding and equal protection standards. Employers who provide health care coverage for their employees must in theory provide coverage for birth control if any pharmaceutical coverage is offered. However, this has only be ruled on at the district court level. SCOTUS has yet to weigh in on the subject to make the application of the law uniform. I think the relevant question here is if Belmont provides any form of pharmaceutical coverage for its employees. If it doesn’t, it is following the law, whether pro-choice advocates like it or not.

    If the issue were the students couldn’t get birth control, this would be a Title IX issue.

  6. I think Kevin is mistaken above in his assertion that birth control was not formerly available to students. It was, and was removed after the administration discovered that contraception was available in the employee health plan. I have read Title IX to the effect that if contraception is offered to employees, it has to be offered to students as well. However, I am no expert, so read it yourself.

    To Freewomyn above: many Catholic schools do not restrict access to birth control in their health plans. Have you ever had a look at Notre Dame’s health plan?

  7. Glaucon – I haven’t. But now that you’ve suggested it, I will totally look into it – you’ve piqued my curiosity.

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