In a united appeal, 18 Catholic colleges asked the Obama administration in September to broaden the religious exemption offered within new guidelines on women’s health issued by the Department of Health and Human Services. They say the requirements would force religious institutions to participate in health insurance plans that include contraceptives and sterilization. The schools’ appeal followed a scorching critique by Carol Keehan, of the Sisters of Charity, a health care reform supporter who represents the Catholic Health Association. She called the proposed religious exemption “wholly inadequate to protect the conscience rights of Catholic hospital and health care organizations.” In a letter to H.H.S. Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the president of the University of Notre Dame, John Jenkins, C.S.C., said the current guidelines place Catholic institutions in the “impossible position” of paying for contraception, sterilization or abortifacients or depriving students and employees of health insurance plans.
Broader Exemption Demanded