Early last week, Loyola Marymount University (LMU) president, David Burcham, announced that they would no longer cover elective abortions in their main health insurance plans, but offered a third-party insurance provider option to faculty and staff who wished to have such coverage. But, said faculty and staff would have to pay for this additional plan themselves—the university would not subsidize it. Burcham cited the university’s Catholic identity as a reason for the policy change.
LMU theology professor Anna Harrison, a leader in the efforts to maintain abortion coverage, was dismissive of the idea that funding abortions through health insurance conflicted with the institution’s Catholic identity. Since the board made their decision regarding abortion coverage final, she has continued to challenge it publicly, recently writing that the Jesuit institution is “dismissive” of women’s intellects and she has even publicly questioned whether Church teachings actually oppose abortion.
Harrison wrote in a recent letter to The Argonaut:
The question of abortion coverage is not, as some have framed it, one of balancing Loyola Marymount University’s Catholic identity with its commitment to plurality and diversity of moral and religious sensibilities. This is, in part, exactly because there is no one ‘Catholic position’ on abortion – not unless we are willing to conflate Catholicism with the teaching of modern bishops.
Yet her claims appear to be in direct contradiction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church—which was created and published to “be a sure and authentic reference text for teaching catholic doctrine and particularly for preparing local catechisms"—and states the following about procured abortion:
2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:
You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.75
God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.76
Harrison went on to cite statistics from the Guttmacher Institute—the research arm of Planned Parenthood—that state that approximately 22 per 1,000 Catholic women in the United States have had an abortion, and that Catholic women were more likely than Protestant women to have an abortion.
“When we talk about Catholic identity, with whom are we willing to engage in conversation?” Harrison queried in her letter. “I hope we are willing to speak with the women of LMU, who will disagree among themselves and sometimes fiercely about the morality of abortion—why shouldn’t they?”
Harrison questioned whether a commitment to “plurality and diversity” shouldn’t outweigh other concerns.
“Professor Harrison’s assertion that the Church is unclear in its opposition to abortion is not only absurd, but lacks all credulity. The Catholic Church has been unwavering in its defense of the dignity of the human person from its inception, as was recently reiterated by Pope Francis—himself a Jesuit,” stated Joe Giganti, vice president of communications for the Cardinal Newman Society. “For a Catholic university theology professor to claim any different is an overwhelming display of ignorance at best, and blatant disobedience and a flagrant abuse of her position at worst. Catholic institutions of higher learning have an obligation to do better than this for the students entrusted to them.”
Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.