Eighteen Catholic colleges from around the country, including Ave Maria University in Florida, have asked the Obama administration to repeal a recent decision to include birth control in a list of preventive health care services.

Catholic groups from all over the country have been the main opposition to a recent decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that would require insurance companies to cover birth control without making women pay a co-payment. For many women, steep co-pays have deterred them from purchasing family planning services.

Despite an expressed exception for “religious institutions that offer insurance to their employees,” Catholic Bishops, Catholic hospitals, Catholic physicians and other Catholic groups have publicly expressed opposition to the exception because “it is too limited.”

Catholic colleges and universities, including Ave Maria University here in Florida, announced today that they are joining other Catholic groups in opposition to the decision.

According to a press release, “eighteen Catholic colleges and universities, all marked by their commitment to Catholic identity and fidelity to Catholic teaching, joined today with The Cardinal Newman Society in an appeal to the Obama administration to exempt all religious objectors from a mandate requiring health insurance plans to cover sterilization and contraceptives, including some that cause abortion.”

Stuart Swetland, executive director of the Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education, states in the press release that “the lack of respect for the beliefs of Catholic persons and institutions (and other men and women of good will) is startling and unprecedented in modern federal regulations.”

“This animus towards sincerely held moral beliefs and practices comes just at a time when ethically based education is so needed in our society,” Swetland says. “Catholic institutions will not compromise on the question of the immorality of contraception and sterilization or the grave injustice of abortion. The administration seems to be telling Catholic institutions that the only way we can operate in their America is to abandon our core ethical beliefs. This law and its outrageously narrow religious exemption cannot stand.”

Ave Maria University is located in an unincorporated community in Collier County; it was created by Domino’s Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan. According to The Washington Post, Monaghan used “a large slice of his fortune to build a Catholic university in southwest Florida, exciting conservative Catholics with his dream of an academically first-class institution that is also solidly orthodox.” The Post also reported that he “produced lots of controversy … over his plan for a surrounding town in which contraceptives would not be available.”

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