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Ottawa Catholic School Board defends coverage for employees’ contraception and abortifacients

The school board claims ending its coverage of contraception would violate doctor-patient privacy and would require them to set up a separate health plan for non-Catholics, arguments lambasted by a parents' advocate.
By Patrick Craine

By Patrick Craine

OTTAWA, October 24, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Ottawa Catholic School Board is defending its health coverage of contraceptives and abortifacients after a complaint by a Catholic ratepayer.

Andy Pocrnic had urged the school board to remove the coverage in May, warning that it undermines the Church’s moral stance.

The concern came as the U.S. Bishops engage in a high-profile battle with the Obama administration over a health care mandate that would force faith-based institutions and private businesses to offer coverage of contraceptives and abortifacients despite their moral convictions.

But on October 20, superintendent Thomas D'Amico informed Pocrnic that the board’s Benefits Advisory Committee had rejected his request at their October 18 meeting and that the board would continue offering the coverage.

The committee is made up of a representative from each of the board’s six employee unions and associations, including the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, CUPE 2357, CUPE 3689, and Unite Here.

“The group took your request under advisement but opted to continue with our current one plan, as-is, for all employee groups,” said D’Amico.

According to the superintendent, the committee raised concern about a breach of privacy between patient and doctor. He also said that they were concerned the proposal would mean having to adopt separate health plans.

Pocrnic’s request, said D’Amico, would require the board to “separate benefit plans based on religious affiliation.”

“The current practice does allow Catholic employees to not submit or request coverage for any area that may be counter to their personal or religious views, while allowing others who do not share similar views to submit their claims as per current practice,” he explained.

In a reply on October 21, Pocrnic lambasted the decision, saying it was a “significant counter-witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ and materially undermines any claims to the board's Catholic identity.”

He said the privacy concern is a red herring because the board already intervenes in the doctor-patient relationship by requiring a medical note before covering sexual stimulants like Viagra. “Why is there a privacy concern when the topic is contraception but not there when the topic is Viagra?” he said.

Pocrnic questioned D’Amico’s suggestion that eliminating the contraceptive coverage would require a separate plan for non-Catholics.

“The immorality of contraception is not restricted to Catholics. This is because contraception goes against the Natural Law,” he wrote. "This means contraception is wrong for everyone." 

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He also noted that D’Amico completely ignored the concern that many contraceptives also act as abortifacients.

“By permitting the coverage of contraceptives in it's Health Policy, the Ottawa Catholic School Board betrays its Catholic identity, creates scandal and confusion among both its students and ratepayers and cooperates with the death of countless of unborn children who carry the face of Jesus Christ,” he said.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, head of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura, the Church’s highest court, has said that 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 2012. “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 Archdiocese of Ottawa does not cover contraceptives in its health plan.

Last week, Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast called on the Ottawa Catholic School Board to remain committed to its Catholic identity and warned that if the schools are not “fully Catholic” they risk descending into “demonic worldliness,” taking a phrase from Pope Francis.

Contact info:

Julian Hanlon, Director of Education
613-224-4455 ext 2272
[email protected]

For trustees, click here.


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