The Catholic University of Dayton continues to provide contraception

The US contraception debate has me – and no doubt many others – scratching their heads in utter puzzlement. The debate concerns the Obama administration’s recent policy that requires religious-affiliated employers to include contraception in the health insurance cover they provide for their employees. The Catholic church has long decried the use of contraceptives as sinful. There was, for example, the Pope’s mind-boggling assertion in 2009 that the use of condoms could make the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa worse. Although, to be fair, he did change his mind in 2010, when even he had to reluctantly accept that with 22.5 million people living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, that maybe it would be ok for blokes to stick a bit of latex on their willies before getting down with it, in the interests of preventing massive human suffering. Although he was keen to point out that it was only ok to use condoms with the sole intention of preventing infection (doctrine of double effect, anyone?). No surprise then, that Catholic bishops and some churches have been up in arms about Obama’s latest idea, since religious-affiliated employers include Catholic universities, hospitals, and so forth.

Luckily, there are some who see the sense in providing contraception. The University of Dayton – a Catholic university – has recently made the following statement:

We have examined our employee medical plan in light of the federal government’s mandate, a process the University of Dayton started before the January HHS announcement.

Our insurance plan, like that of a number of other Catholic universities, does not cover abortion or abortion-inducing drugs, but covers contraceptive care. This has been the case for at least 20years. Our two health insurance providers during that period indicated they could not separate out whether prescriptions or procedures are medically necessary or not. Our Catholic identity is at the heart of our institution’s mission, but, in light of the importance of the health of our employees and the prevention of disease, we entered into these plans. We are not changing our employee health care insurance coverage.

The University is aligned with the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities’ position, which supports a balance between health care and religious freedom. Like all Catholic universities, we await further clarification on the federal position.

Three cheers for them!

The Dayton News article is here.

Thanks to PD for sending in the story.

7 thoughts on “The Catholic University of Dayton continues to provide contraception

  1. Unfortunately, the fact that the University of Dayton is willing to offer a health plan covering contraceptives has no more bearing on whether the government’s proposed mandate is lawful than the fact that, say, NYU is willing to do so.

    I don’t think it’s entirely fair to characterize the Pope’s assertion about condoms and Africa as “mind-boggling” (notwithstanding that the threshold for boggling presumably varies from mind to mind). After all, at least some HIV/AIDS prevention researchers indicated at the time that the Pope’s statement was empirically supported (see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/27/AR2009032702825.html). And the theoretical mechanisms whereby it theoretically *could* be true (e.g. risk compensation) are, it seems to me, at least plausible, whether or not actually true. (Also, I’m not persuaded that the Pope’s subsequent statement on the subject actually constituted a retraction or a change in position – though it certainly was widely intepreted by the media as such – but that’s a matter for another discussion.)

  2. I think they are two views of this problem. The Church thinks that no-one but the God has right to end someone’s life and is therefore against contraception. I must say that I could not live with a thought that I killed a chiled despite the fact that contraception pills do not kill a real person but just a few cells. On the other hand there are some people who should not have a family because they would not be able to raise child and it would be a disaster for a kid to grow in an uncaring or unloving family. This is why I think that contraception pills (the ones taken after the “deed” has been done) should be banned and children born to uncaring mothers should be given a chance to live a new life in a caring and loving family.

  3. This is why I think that contraception pills (the ones taken after the “deed” has been done) should be banned…

    For what it’s worth, there is, at least, significant dispute as to whether emergency contraception prevents implantation of fertilized eggs or not, with most of the evidence suggest that that’s at least not the normal mechanism. Furthermore, the fact that you “could not live with the thought that [you] killed a child” is a fine reason indeed for you to not use or condone certain forms of birth control, but a weak reason for them to be outlawed.

    Nemo’s link is a bit misleading, at least, because a large part of the Pope’s claim was that condoms don’t work in preventing HIV transmission because they can’t stop HIV. That’s false. Even the misleading linked story suggests that the problem w/ condom use in Africa was that they were used inconsistently, which leads to a rather different moral than the one suggested.

  4. Matt, what exactly is misleading? As for the Pope’s 2009 comment, it appears to have been that the AiDS crisis in Africa “is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, and that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems” (various translations appeared in the English-language press; I’m not sure what language the Pope was addressing the reporter in). What part of this remark are you referring to? Perhaps I didn’t manage to find the complete text.

  5. Yes- I’m party wrong here, as I was thinking of the first time the Pope got going about condoms in Africa, in 2005. At that point he based his claims in part on a Vatican flim-flam artist who claimed that condoms couldn’t stop HIV- a nonsense claim. It was also claimed that encouraging condom use caused increased sexual activity, a claim that is, at least, disputed. What is clear is that consistent condom use greatly reduces the spread of HIV, and that regular (but not 100% consistent) use helps reduce it. Drawing the inference that this means that we should not promote condom use when it’s inconsistently practiced is a very odd conclusion, but that’s the one that the Pope (and the person in the linked text) draws.

  6. Matt,

    From what I can learn from news reports, what the Pope said in 2005 was “The traditional teaching of the church has proven to be the only failsafe way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.” (He apparently made some other remarks about contraception and morals, but so far as I can tell they don’t seem to have spoken to the relationship between condoms and HIV/AIDS.) Is that the statement you were thinking of? If so, it strikes me as probably substantially true, not intrinsically misleading, not contradicted by that piece I linked from the director of Harvard’s AIDS Prevention Research Project, and not obviously based on a third party’s spurious claim.

    I’d be interested to examine the comments of the Vatican personage you alluded to, but I don’t want to come up with the wrong person or the wrong comments, so person or the wrong comments, so if you have a link or any other info that would be great.

    You mention that “What is clear is that consistent condom use greatly reduces the spread of HIV, and that regular (but not 100% consistent) use helps reduce it.” At least as to the second half of the assertion, I’m not sure that is fully clear – because if Prof. Green is right when he says that the Pope was right in 2009, then it seems to me to follow that your statement is not invariably true. Green does say that “”[I]ntuitively, some condom use ought to be better than no use” but adds that it turns out not to be the case in Africa.

    An important factor that bears on all this is risk compensation, which you mention is “at least, disputed” and probably so. (Prof. Green seems to think it is key; it’s the first explanation he goes to after posing the question of why increased rates of condom usage haven’t helped better than no use at all in Africa.) But I would say whether your statement about condom use to be true in a meaningful way as far as Africa is concerned depends on the extent to which risk compensation is playing a role there. I say this because otherwise all one can really say is that the statement is true *all other things being equal* (i.e., people engaging in sexual conduct that, but for the presence of a condom, has the same risk profile), which doesn’t tell us what we really want to know. This being the case, doesn’t it seem as though as long as the role of risk compensation (or some similar effect) in condom-using Africans is subject to reasonable dispute, then whether and to what extent your statement holds true for Africa is probably subject to reasonable dispute?

    Just as an aside, I’ll add that risk compensation behaviour doesn’t necessarily mean an increased amount of sexual activity as you indicated; it could also mean an increased overall sexual risk profile due to other things (such as through an impact on number and choice of partners).

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