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Catholic Education Daily


Faculty, Students at Catholic Colleges Defend HHS Mandate in Court Brief

Included among the briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the HHS contraception/abortifacient/ sterilization mandate challenges was an amici curiae brief signed by students and faculty members from several Catholic universities who argued that the mandate is necessary for women’s health, education and professional achievement. The Court will hear oral arguments on the challenges to the mandate on March 23.

The brief was signed by 240 students, faculty and staff at “religious institutions.” All but one of the colleges and universities represented in the brief are Catholic. The faculty and staff members who signed the brief are employed by DePaul University in Chicago, Fordham University, Fordham University School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center and Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Students at Georgetown University, Loyola University New Orleans, Saint Louis University School of Law, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and the University of Notre Dame also signed the brief.

“Because they work or study at religiously affiliated entities and rely on the contraceptive coverage guaranteed to them and their dependents under the Affordable Care Act, amici bring special insight into the importance of the current accommodation regulations in ensuring that women are able to make their own reproductive decisions,” according to the brief.

The brief defended the necessity of the HHS mandate — which attacks the religious freedom of Catholic employers and promotes moral evils — declaring that Catholic institutions resisting the mandate and its “accommodation” have “no right to veto the government’s provision of benefits and thereby to strip these students, faculty, and staff of access to coverage for critical preventive care.” The Catholic college faculty and students went on to argue that contraception is imperative to women’s professional advancement, and as such, the government has a “compelling interest” in requiring employers to provide contraceptive coverage.

“Contraceptives prevent unintended pregnancy and abortion, expand women’s educational and professional opportunities, and improve women’s health,” the brief argued. “As a result, the government’s interests in ensuring access to contraceptive coverage is compelling, and the stakes for the affected women are high.”

Fordham University is the most represented institution, with seven signatures from faculty and staff and 81 from students. Fordham signees include Amy Aronson, professor of journalism and media studies; Jeanne Flavin, professor of sociology; Kathryn Krasinski, adjunct professor of anthropology; Brenna Moore, associate professor of theology; Kirsten Swinth, associate professor of history; Laura Wernick, assistant professor at Fordham’s School of Social Service; and Erin Coughlin, an executive secretary. Fordham University School of Law is represented by Chi Mgbako, a clinical professor of law and director of the School’s Leitner International Human Rights Clinic, along with 59 student signatures.

Flavin is a board member of National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), an organization that advocates for abortion rights. “NAPW knows that there are many ways to reduce the number of abortions but that banning abortions is not one of them,” the group’s webpage on “Abortion and Contraception Restrictions” states.

Two professors from Georgetown University Law Center signed the brief: Deborah Epstein, professor of law and director of the Center’s Domestic Violence Clinic; and Jill Morrison, visiting professor of law. Sixty-six students attending Georgetown Law also signed, as well as three students at Georgetown University.

Morrison previously signed an amicus brief in support of abortionists in Texas in the case Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, which was argued before the Supreme Court this month. She was one of 110 female attorneys that signed the brief who claimed they would not have been able to advance in their careers or achieve success had they not procured abortions. Morrison is also vice chair on the board of Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), an organization that partners with groups such as the dissident Catholics for Choice to advocate for abortion and contraception.

Three professors from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Calif., signed the brief: Lily Khadjavi, professor of mathematics; Anna Muraco, assistant professor of sociology; and Jennifer Pate, associate professor and chair of the economics department.

Muraco and Pate were both quoted in a 2013 article in the Los Angeles Times on the subject of the University’s decision to drop employee health insurance for “elective” abortions. The move garnered some backlash from displeased faculty and staff. “A total ban [on abortion coverage] would signal that the university ‘values diversity less than our Catholic affiliation,’” Pate was quoted as stating. And Muraco reportedly claimed that the move “stripped away a benefit and imposed an inequity on women in the workplace.”

Heather Sevener, an academic advisor at DePaul University in Chicago, also signed.

As demonstrated in Ex corde Ecclesiae, the Church is clear on the responsibility teachers at Catholic institutions are given in preserving and protecting Catholic identity:

The identity of a Catholic University is essentially linked to the quality of its teachers and to respect for Catholic doctrine. … All teachers and all administrators, at the time of their appointment, are to be informed about the Catholic identity of the Institution and its implications, and about their responsibility to promote, or at least to respect, that identity. … In ways appropriate to the different academic disciplines, all Catholic teachers are to be faithful to, and all other teachers are to respect, Catholic doctrine and morals in their research and teaching.

The signees’ connection to Catholic institutions is particularly scandalous given the fact that many Catholic colleges are currently challenging the HHS mandate, arguing that any involvement in the distribution of contraceptives would significantly damage their Catholic identities.

At least 22 Catholic schools and 11 Catholic colleges have challenged the mandate in federal courts, including Aquinas College in Nashville, Tenn.; Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Fla.; Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C.; The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.; Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio; Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif.; University of Dallas; and Wyoming Catholic College.

Faithful Catholics are being encouraged to join in prayer and fasting for the protection of religious freedom leading up to and on the day of the March 23 oral arguments before the Court.

Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.


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