OTTAWA, Ontario, May 2, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – As bishops across the United States rise up against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, one Catholic School Board in Ottawa has admitted that its health plan for employees covers contraceptives, including drugs that can act as abortifacients, like the birth control pill.
“We cover any medication that’s prescribed by an Ontario doctor. We don’t know what they are prescribing for,” said Mardi de Kemp, the communications officer for the Ottawa school board.
The revelation, which first surfaced on the SoCon or Bust blog, has many of the city’s Catholic parents up in arms.
“It’s difficult for parents to understand why the OCSB would knowingly pay for contraceptives and abortifacients,” said Andy Pocrnic, head of Concerned Catholic Parents of Ottawa.
The documentation for the school board’s health plan, available online, says it covers all “drugs, serums, vaccines and injectables that either legally require a prescription or are only available by prescription.” It also specifies that diaphragms and IUDs are not covered.
Asked to confirm that the drug coverage includes contraceptives, de Kemp said, “Any medication available in Ontario, then it would be covered in their plan.”
“Anything that the doctor would prescribe for the health of the patient, we would not know what it was and it would be covered by their insurance,” she added.
The issue of insurance coverage for contraceptives has risen to the fore in the last couple months after President Obama’s administration issued a mandate requiring employers to cover contraception, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs as “preventive care.”
The move sparked a universal backlash by America’s bishops who were joined by leaders from numerous other faiths in declaring it an unprecedented attack on religious freedom. Protests have been held across the country and it is poised to become a major election issue leading into the November 2012 presidential contest.
Last month, Cardinal Raymond Burke, head of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura, said Catholic employers who provide an insurance plan that covers contraceptives are “cooperating” in the employees’ sin.
“It is not only a matter of what we call ‘material cooperation’ in the sense that the employer by giving this insurance benefit is materially providing for the contraception,” he explained in an interview with Thomas McKenna, President of Catholic Action for Faith and Family. “It is also ‘formal cooperation’ because he is knowingly and deliberately doing this, making this available to people. There is no way to justify it. It is simply wrong.”
The controversy has also prompted re-examinations of the practice in certain quarters of the Church.
For example, as Bishop Salvatore Cordileone lodged his objection to Obama’s mandate in February, he announced at the same time that he had recently learned the Catholic hospitals and charitable agencies in his diocese were covering contraceptives under a California state law. He pledged they would be taking the necessary steps to correct the situation “in a way that fully respects our moral principles.”
In her interview with LifeSiteNews, de Kemp said she does not know whether there was ever a discussion at the Ottawa Catholic School Board about whether or not to provide the controversial coverage.
Asked if the school board is concerned that covering an employee’s contraception would be cooperating in violating Catholic teaching, she said, “A staff person’s medical history is their private concern. As an employer, we are not in the loop on what they are seeing the doctor for.”
Pocrnic said parents are “hoping this is a mistake that will be fixed by the trustees and administration now that it’s been brought to their attention.”
“To do otherwise would make parents question why they even bother to call themselves a Catholic school board,” he added.
Director of Education, Ottawa Catholic School Board
Phone: 613-224-4455 ext 2272
For trustees, click here.
Archbishop Terrence Prendergast
1247 Kilborn Place
Ottawa, Ontario K1H 6K9