The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ruled that a small Catholic college must include coverage for artificial contraceptives in its employee health insurance plan, raising new concerns about the need for conscience protections and religious exemptions in America’s health care policies.
In December 2007, Belmont Abbey College removed coverage for abortion, contraception and voluntary sterilization after they were accidentally included in the college’s insurance plan. Eight faculty members filed complaints with the EEOC and the North Carolina Department of Insurance.
“As a Roman Catholic institution, Belmont Abbey College is not able to and will not offer nor subsidize medical services that contradict the clear teaching of the Catholic Church,” said Belmont Abbey President William Thierfelder. “There was no other course of action possible if we were to operate in fidelity to our mission and to our identity as a Catholic college.”
The EEOC determined that Belmont Abbey has discriminated against women by denying coverage of contraception.
“By denying prescription contraception drugs, Respondent [Belmont Abbey College] is discriminating based on gender because only females take oral prescription contraceptives. By denying coverage, men are not affected, only women,” wrote Reuben Daniels Jr. in his determination as the EEOC Charlotte District Office Director.
Belmont Abbey College has been directed by the EEOC to reach an agreeable resolution with faculty. If this does not happen, Daniels will advise the parties of available enforceable court alternatives.