In an October 7 post, right-wing blogger Gateway Pundit falsely claimed that President Obama "is forcing a private Catholic institution to cover abortion in its insurance plan," and Ed Morrissey similarly wrote on HotAir.com that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) "demanded that a private Catholic college offer abortion" coverage. In fact, the EEOC -- in a letter of determination that did not address the issue of abortion -- stated that the institution, Belmont Abbey College, violated discrimination laws by denying employees health insurance coverage for "prescription contraceptive drugs."
Blogs falsely asserted EEOC is forcing school to cover "abortion"
Gateway Pundit: "It Has Begun... Obama Administration Forcing Catholic Institution To Carry Abortion Coverage." Citing a fundraising letter from former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) on behalf of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty -- which asserted that the Obama administration has launched an "attack on Belmont Abbey College" since the EEOC "announced, in effect, that the college had better toe the Administration's line, or else" -- Gateway Pundit wrote, "Barack Obama is forcing a private Catholic institution to cover abortion in its insurance plan." The title of the post similarly read, "It Has Begun... Obama Administration Forcing Catholic Institution To Carry Abortion Coverage." The blog post also repeated the debunked claim that Obama voted "to support infanticide during his political career." [Gateway Pundit, 10/7/09]
Hot Air's Morrissey: EEOC demanded private college "offer abortion" coverage. Linking to the Gateway Pundit post and citing The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Hot Air blogger Ed Morrissey stated that "the EEOC has demanded that a private Catholic college offer abortion and contraception coverage as part of its health-insurance benefits." [Hot Air, 10/8/09]
In fact, EEOC only said that denying "prescription contraceptive drugs" is unlawful
Employees challenged school's 2007 decision to end coverage for abortion, contraception, and voluntary sterilization. In a July 20 letter of determination, EEOC Charlotte District Office director Reuben Daniels noted that Belmont Abbey College employees alleged discrimination "based on sex when [their] health coverage plan was changed to deny contraceptive benefits." The Washington Times reported that "[t]he EEOC investigation into Belmont Abbey stems from changes the college made to its employee health-insurance plan nearly two years ago. The changes came after the school discovered its plan had inadvertently been covering abortions, prescription contraception and elective sterilization procedures." Eight employees charged that the changes "violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act by discriminating against them based on religion or sex." [The Washington Times, 8/15/09]
EEOC determined denial of coverage for "contraceptive drugs" is discriminatory. In his letter, Daniels told Belmont Abbey College that "[b]y denying prescription contraceptive drugs, [the college] is discriminating based on gender because only females take oral prescription contraceptives" and that "the Commission attempts to eliminate the alleged unlawful practice by informal methods of conciliation. Therefore, the Commission now invites the parties to join with it in reaching a just resolution of the matter." The letter did not address the college's decision to end insurance coverage for abortion or voluntary sterilization.
From the EEOC's July 30 letter:
Respondent is an employer within the meaning of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as amended, and timliness and all other requirements for coverage have been met.
Charging party alleges that he was discriminated against by Respondent based on sex when health coverage plan was changed to deny contraceptive benefits.
Respondent is owned and founded by the Southern Benedictine Society of North Carolina (Benedictine Monks) and claims that contraceptive benefits are inconsistent with the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church and undermine the College's religious beliefs. Respondent claims that they were approved by the state of North Carolina to change their employees' benefits packages.
Examination of evidence obtained by the Commission during its investigation supports the Charging Party's allegations, and does not support Respondent's defense. By denying prescription contraceptive drugs, Respondent is discriminating based on gender because only females take oral prescription contraceptives. By denying coverage, men are not affected, only women.
Charging party further alleges that he was discriminated against by Respondent based on religion when health coverage plan was changed to deny contraceptive benefits.
Examination of evidence obtained by the Commission during its investigation does not support the Charging Party's allegations. The benefits were not changed based on each individual employee's religious beliefs; contraception benefits were removed from the health plan for all employees, regardless of their religion.
Upon finding that there is reason to believe that a violation has occurred, the Commission attempts to eliminate the alleged unlawful practice by informal methods of conciliation. Therefore, the Commission now invites the parties to join with it in reaching a just resolution of the matter.
If the Respondent declines to discuss settlement or when, for any other reason, a settlement acceptable to the Office Director is not obtained, the Director will inform the parties and advise them of the court enforcement alternatives available to aggrieved persons and the Commission. A Commission representative will contact each party in the near future to begin conciliation.