Catholic university sues insurer for covering contraception

Duquesne University is suing Highmark Inc for improperly covering the costs of contraception.

Duquesne University on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Highmark Inc., claiming that the insurer improperly paid reimbursements for birth control and other medications and procedures that go against the school’s Catholic mission.

Filed in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, the lawsuit seeks damages of $1.75 million.

News like this reminds me not to be surprised that the coverage of contraception in the Health Care Reform law was ever even in question.

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  • Katherine

    Hi, I’m new to commenting, but just wanted to point out that the headline is a bit misleading…”Catholic University” is its own institution, in Washington, D.C. I think perhaps “Catholic university” is more accurate for the headline. Otherwise an interesting, and a somewhat upsetting, story.


    • Miriam

      Good point Kate. I just edited the headline.

  • Ariadne

    Wow. Well that begs the question, “Can I sue the Catholic University for being dicks?” And then it begs another question, “What grounds are they citing that they can sue this insurer? Is this parentis loci or whatever that weird phrase is?” I don’t get it. This is none of their business and is not, in fact, part of their faith. I know … I used to be one.

    • Kathleen Lewis Greenwood

      From the link, it seems like the insurance company violated a contract only to provide certain medications, which they obviously financially benefited from. (and they were providing Botox as well as contraceptives, no idea how that gets categorised as medical treatment!). It seems to only be about the breach of contract, with no implication that students aren’t allowed to get contraceptives elsewhere. Using contraception is contrary to Catholic moral teaching, so this is sees perfectly consistent and acceptable to me.

    • toongrrl

      Good point

    • unequivocal

      Asks the question; this asks the question.

      “Begs the question” refers to a specific logical fallacy wherein one assumes that the initial part of a statement is true without providing proof. Claiming that Christianity is true because the bible says so is begging the question.

      Off topic I know, but worth knowing about.

  • Kait Mauro

    Yuck, in my hometown…

  • Critter

    Disgusting. Birth control is a human right. Seriously…how do these “religious” institutions get away with this garbage? Why do we give a free pass to groups that indoctrinate people to hate?

    • Kathleen Lewis Greenwood

      The Catholic church does agree with you that becoming a parent is the most serious responsibility anyone is entrusted with, and it’s a choice that must always be freely embraced and never coerced in any way. That’s why it supports methods of natural family planning that are as effective as hormonal birth control when used properly. Obviously the church disagrees that artificial birth control is a human right, but this post is about the specific issue of one catholic university refusing to fund artificial contraceptives (and botox!) for their students. No one is questioning the right of those students to use contraceptives, and there are many universities with a “catholic ethos” that do not have this policy.

      The Catholic Church is a religious institution, not sure why that’s been put in inverted commas. You have every right to disagree with their teaching, but I don’t think it’s fair to expect them to change it because non-catholics disagree.

      I don’t see any part of this policy as indoctrinating people to hate, and I don’t think it’s fair to say they’re getting a “free pass” either. Catholic teaching on reproduction has been under sustained and vehement criticism since the 1930s.

      • Critter

        I don’t believe in the legitimacy or authority of any religious institution. And given that I believe that this policy violates the human rights of their employees, I have every right to expect they change their policy.

        As to indoctrinating people to hate…the Catholic Church’s stance on gays is proof positive of that. And yeah, since only religious institutions are the only employers given the right to deny their employees access to birth control, I think it’s fair to say that religious groups are getting a free pas via an exemption in the law.

        It boggles my mind that professing belief in an imaginary, invisible man in the sky somehow entitles an employer to do something that would otherwise be illegal.

        • Kathleen Lewis Greenwood

          The UN hold that access to contraception is a human right, which means, that politically speaking it is, regardless of the RC position on the matter, but having a right to something means that no one can legitimately deprive you of it, it doesn’t necessarily compel another person to supply if to you. (In fact the Catholic position has always been that for human rights like food, warmth, shelter, education, friendship etc those in a position to do so do have a moral duty to provide, but that’s a different matter). In this instance, the university isn’t trying to deny students contraception (or making refusal of contraception a condition of entry to the college) it’s just refusing to fund medication that goes against their moral beliefs and the teachings of the church whose principles they’re founded upon.

          The debate about homosexuality is a complex, and separate one, and much of the criticism leveled at the church has been absolutely fair, but I don’t want to derail the thread by going further into it here; I still don’t see anything about this specific policy which is “indoctrinating people to hate”.

      • E

        Don’t something like 80% of US Catholics use birth control?

        Anyway, I wouldn’t say NFP is very reliable. My grandparents used it, and yes, they never had any more kids. But as my grandmother said, it relied on only having sex when she was totally uninterested. Real progressive, that.

        My (Catholic) mom just used condoms. I think she took the pill for a few years as well.

        One of the priests I knew growing up would disagree with you about that whole coercion thing, by the way. He gave a long, angry sermon one week about how married couples who refuse to have children are sinning something terrible. Sounds like coercion to me. I was probably 14 or 15 at the time, but it pissed me off so much that it’s stuck with me all these years. I used to think he was a cool guy, but saying something like that is just … evil and hateful. Just another of the many reasons I determined at a very young age that Catholicism didn’t want me, as a woman, to live a life of my choosing. It wanted to choose my life for me, suck all the happiness out of it, and then claim that that suffering could be offered up to god for bonus purgatory points.