Forum on contraceptive mandate controversy to occur Wednesday night

Monday, April 2, 2012 | 6:17 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — When the Obama administration announced its birth control mandate for insurance providers in January, it sparked a nationwide debate.

As part of the contentious health care reform law, the policy requires even nonprofit hospitals affiliated with religious organizations to cover contraceptives.

On Wednesday, Columbia residents can participate in an open forum on this topic at "Courageous Conversations on Contraception: Women's Health and Religious Freedom." 

This is the third annual Courageous Conversations, which is organized by the university's Difficult Dialogues program.

The event will begin with a brief discussion among the six panelists: two local religious leaders and four MU professors, who represent the fields of law, medicine and women's and gender studies. After that, organizers said, it's up to the audience.

"Really, what we're interested in is having people in the audience then come forward, ask questions, and engage in the dialogue as well," said Roger Worthington, an MU professor and one of the project directors for Difficult Dialogues.

Worthington will be the moderator at Wednesday's event and introduce basic guidelines prior to the discussion. Although controversial topics are always selected for Courageous Conversations, the event isn't supposed to provoke anger.

"The purpose of our work is not so much to get people worked up but to think about topics that have gotten people worked up and to bring them together to have civil dialogue about these really controversial and potentially emotionally laden topics," Worthington said.

The free event will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in MU's Hulston Hall, Room 7.

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