While claiming they have ended elective abortion coverage in their healthcare coverage, Loyola Marymount University’s board of trustees has decided to offer supplemental insurance to faculty and staff, which would provide abortion coverage for employees who pay for it. The announcement was made in a written statement from University President David Burcham and co-signed by Board Chairwoman Kathleen Aikenhead, which was obtained by The Cardinal Newman Society.
“At the end of the day, this insurance scheme facilitates employees’ abortions,” Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly said in a statement to the Catholic News Agency. “The bishops declared a similar scheme unacceptable in the federal HHS mandate, which forces Catholics to facilitate coverage for contraceptives and sterilization. Much worse, LMU is itself funding coverage for contraception and sterilization, while also enabling abortion coverage.
“This has been billed as a compromise on insurance coverage,” Reilly added, “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.”
In August, LMU had announced plans to drop abortion coverage in its current employee health benefits, following inquiries from Professor James Hanink and the Cardinal Newman Society’s Catholic Education Daily news site. After the Newman Society broke the news that abortion coverage would be dropped from LMU’s health plan, protests from many faculty and staff became a national news story, even getting coverage from The New York Times.
After a much anticipated board of trustees meeting yesterday, the announcement came that while the board, citing the university’s Catholic identity, voted to exclude coverage for elective abortions from LMU’s standard health care plans, it would offer a plan administered by a third party to cover abortions. Employees will have to pay a slightly higher premium to get the coverage.
Burcham and Aikenhead stated that no LMU dollars will be used in paying for this additional coverage—but the University will continue to pay for coverage of “contraception and other forms of reproductive care.”
“We acknowledge that the issue of abortion is extremely complicated and encompasses varied and competing values that often leave no one happy,” they wrote. “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 and Aikenhead also sought to reaffirm LMU’s Catholic identity even while facilitating abortion coverage: “In this decision, we join the Jesuits in the United States and their many works (as evidenced in their 2003 statement Standing for the Unborn) and reaffirm LMU’s commitment to its Jesuit/Marymount and Catholic heritage and faithfulness to the Catholic Church’s core teaching on the dignity of every human being at all stages of life. In doing so, however, we also want to reaffirm clearly that we are a university in which diversity, academic freedom, free discourse, unencumbered pursuit of truth and engaged debate on important contemporary issues are part of our very nature and key to our success.”
But Christopher Kaczor, a philosophy professor at LMU, told The Daily Breeze that the plan makes little sense.
“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,” he said. “It’s a victory for the side that wants LMU to be a secular place.”
Sociology professor Anna Muraco told The Daily Breeze that she believes removing elective abortions from the coverage and asking them to pay a higher premium for abortion coverage “singles out health coverage that only affects one class of worker.”
“There’s something disingenuous by the way this (issue) has been framed,” she reportedly said. “They claim to be an institution that respects diversity and religious plurality, and we did not have to sign any kind of faith statement like other (Catholic) schools have.”
Muraco told The Daily Breeze that she was raised Catholic but left the Church over issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.
Employees will be able to choose their desired coverage during the open enrollment period that begins October 28, 2013.