The faculty senate of the Santa Clara University in California, a Catholic school, recently voted to reinstate insurance coverage of abortion, reversing the university president’s decision to end the school’s funding of the procedure, which violates Catholic teaching.
University president Father Michael Engh announced the change to insurance coverage in early October, the same week that Loyola Marymount, a Catholic university in Los Angeles, decided to eliminate its coverage of elective abortions. “Our core commitments as a Catholic university are incompatible with the inclusion of elective abortion coverage in the University’s health plans,” Engh said.
Engh’s decision incited criticism by faculty who claimed that they weren’t consulted about Engh’s choice and that he was trying to impose his religious views on women. “The male Jesuits running Santa Clara University feel they know what God wants regarding women, women’s bodies, and women’s reproduction,” anthropology professor Mary Hegland said.
Nancy Unger, a history professor, also criticized Engh for his unilateral decision, saying, “Santa Clara has a stated commitment to shared governance, inclusiveness, openness and so forth. This is such a powerful violation of all that Santa Clara says that it stands for.” She echoed Hegland’s statements as well, writing in the San Jose Mercury News, “Santa Clara faculty and staff are not members of a Catholic parish. They are employees of a large corporation. Many fear that this denial of comprehensive abortion coverage is part of a wider effort to allow private employers to impose their religious beliefs on employees, denying a raft of health-care services from abortion and contraception to vaccines.”
However, Engh was not trying to deny anyone abortion, contraceptive, or any other type of coverage. He made his decision in October in order to give the faculty enough time to look for third-party plans that covered any procedure they desired. He merely did not want the Catholic institution to be complicit in what it considers immoral.
Engh had previously called his decision “final” but the surprise vote by the faculty of 215 to 89 reversed the new policy. All 627 faculty members at the university were eligible to vote.