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Xavier University to Continue Contraceptive Coverage for Employees

Isn’t it a shame when we live in a time when we want to applaud someone for simply doing what they are supposed to do? Well, that is the case with Xavier University.

Let’s give credit where credit is due. Xavier University, a Catholic institution, announced last week that it is reversing its previous decision and will provide contraception coverage in its employees’ health-insurance plan. It’s encouraging to see a Catholic institution embrace true religious freedom by allowing employees to make personal choices based on their own beliefs and what is best for their health and the well-being of their families.

The controversy started last spring when Xavier University employees learned that their health insurance would no longer cover birth control unless it was necessary for medical purposes. The university president wrote in a letter to employees that “as a Catholic priest and as president of a Catholic university, I have concluded that, absent a legal mandate, it is inconsistent for a Catholic institution to cover those drugs and procedures the Church opposes.” But Catholic universities like Xavier University employ people from all faiths, and those employees should have the same rights and benefits that other employees have.

The policy was reconsidered after many employees, students, and alumni expressed their displeasure with the sudden change. Alumni created a petition vowing not to donate to the university as long as it blocked contraception coverage for employees, saying that the university must not “play politics with the lives of women.” Regardless of what an employer’s religious beliefs are, those beliefs should not trump women’s health and women’s access to the health care they need.

The reversal of the policy doesn’t mean that any employee of Xavier University will be forced to buy or use contraception. It simply gives employees the right to make their own health care decisions, including whether and when to use birth control. Xavier University’s decision to continue contraceptive coverage for employees is a good step in the right direction, and hopefully it will encourage other Catholic universities to follow in its footsteps. Employers have the right to their religious beliefs, but they should not be allowed to impose them on their employees.

Unfortunately, students at Xavier still do not have birth control coverage through their student insurance plan (similar to Georgetown University, which also covers employees’ birth control but not students). The next step for Xavier is to extend the same respect to its students that it has given to its employees.