.- A Jesuit college in California has sparked controversy by announcing that it will stop directly covering elective abortions, but will instead offer employees a separate, unsubsidized plan to cover them.
“At the end of the day, this insurance scheme facilitates employees’ abortions,” said Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, which works to promote authentic Catholic identity at Catholic colleges.
“This has been billed as a compromise on insurance coverage, but in reality it’s a compromise of the Faith and of LMU’s commitment to Catholic teaching – and it’s going to lead to innocent babies being killed in the womb.”
The decision was announced in an Oct. 7 letter from David W. Burcham, president of Loyola Marymont University, and Kathleen Hannon Aikenhead, chair of the Board of Trustees.
“We acknowledge that the issue of abortion is extremely complicated and encompasses varied and competing values that often leave no one happy,” the letter said.
“Nonetheless, we believe that the right to life and dignity for every human being is a fundamental part of Catholic beliefs (all other rights flow from this primary right to life and dignity), and that this vision needs to be evidenced in LMU’s policies and procedures.”
Burcham explained that, after years of paying for abortions under their insurance plans, the university had, “for the first time, been given the option to exclude elective abortions from its principal health insurance plans.”
He continued, adding that after receiving feedback from the campus community, the university decided to end coverage for elective abortions for the 2014 school year “because we take very seriously our fiduciary role as guardians of LMU and, particularly, upholding its Jesuit/Marymount and Catholic identity, mission, history and tradition.”
He explained that the decision is in line with the Catholic and Jesuit understanding of the “core teaching on the dignity of every human being at all stages of life.”
However, the school “will continue to cover therapeutic abortions, contraception and other forms of reproductive care mandated by the State of California.”
In addition, it will facilitate access to elective abortions through a third-party administrator. These abortions will not be funded by the university, but by employees who opt into the plan.
“The TPA-managed plan will cover elective abortions, for which an employee will pay a slightly higher premium,” the letter explained. “The employee will be responsible for the entirety of the cost associated with this additional coverage and, thus, no LMU dollars will be used in paying for this additional coverage.”
The decision – both to stop covering elective abortions directly and to offer the third-party plan – has raised opposition from faculty on both sides of the issue.
Anna Muraco, a sociology professor, told The Daily Breeze that she was disappointed with the decision, arguing that abortion is a matter of equality and the school should cover it.
“Don’t be surprised if somewhere down the line there will be an attempt to restrict sterilization coverage or limits on services for transgendered Americans or domestic partner benefits,” she said.
Faculty members who welcome the college's decision to not fund abortions, however, also have questions about the new policy, due to its facilitation of abortions through the third-party administrator.
“I don’t think it makes much sense,” said Christopher Kaczor, a Loyola philosophy professor to The Daily Breeze.
“It’s like saying abortion is seriously wrong, I will not drive you to the abortion clinic, but wait here and I’ll have my brother drive you — and that somehow gives them clean hands.”