Despite national hubbub, Catholic UI students still support contraception


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A mandate requiring religiously affiliated organizations to provide insurance for prescription birth control has upset local and national Catholic leaders, but many University of Iowa students who are Catholic side with the decision.

The Department of Health and Human Services issued a compromise Feb.10, requiring that insurance companies provide the contraception coverage rather than the affiliations themselves. The act prompted disapproval from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

UI sophomore and Catholic Matt Dilger said he agrees employees of religious-affiliated institutions should receive such coverage, though he understands why employers would be hesitant.

"It needs to be allowed because some people just aren't ready for kids no matter what their situation is," he said. "If the employee wants to get that as a supplement to their insurance, then more power to them. But I don't think any employer should be forced."

UI senior and Catholic Magen Krones said she feels skipping out on contraception coverage will hurt employees in the long run.

"Birth control is used for a lot of things besides contraception. It's used to regulate hormones, for bad cramps, for skin," she said. "It's important because it is an unrealistic expectation for people to stay abstinent."

Debate over birth control and similar prescriptions have lead to rifts in families as well. Natalie Gonzalez, a Catholic and sophomore at Kirkwood Community College, said her highly religious grandparents stopped talking to her family for five months after her parents put her on birth control in high school.

"I honestly don't think [birth control] has anything to do with someone's faith," she said. "I don't think it should be considered a sin. I am totally for birth control."

For organizations to be exempt from the mandate, they must meet four requirements. The organization must be a nonprofit and primarily employ and serve people sharing its religious stances.

Iowa Catholic Conference director Tom Chapman said his group took issue with the government's definition of a religious organization employing entirely Catholics.

"Many Catholic organizations hire people of all faiths," he said.

However, he said, the conference supports the federal bill on the whole.

"It's not so much the contraception piece," he said. "It's, 'How far can the government go and tell [religious institutions] they have to violate their religious beliefs?' "

The Newman Catholic Student Center, 104 E. Jefferson St., and St. Patrick Catholic Church, 4330 St. Patrick Drive, are not required to provide insurance policies that cover contraception to their female employees.

Mount Mercy University officials told The Daily Iowan Tuesday the school does provide contraception to employees and will continue to follow all state-mandated health-care regulations.

The Rev. Rudolph Juarez of St. Patrick said the key issue with the new mandate is its infringement on religious liberty.

"Currently, governmental policies define [contraception] as preventative medicine," he said. "You prevent disease, and pregnancy is not a disease."

Linda Kroon, the director of the UI Women's Resource and Action Center, said she is surprised the contraception topic has become so controversial.

"It is common sense that you provide basic health-care coverage," she said. "I think a lot of people would view something like prescription birth control to be something under basic health care. No one can be compelled to take medication they don't want to take. [But] we shouldn't make it impossible for someone to take medication or have access that they need."

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