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Catholic Education Daily


Santa Clara Univ. Trustees Support Dropping Abortion from Health Insurance

Citing Santa Clara University’s Jesuit and Catholic identity as well as the words of Pope Francis, the University’s board of trustees has rejected a faculty resolution urging it to restore coverage of abortion in the employee health plan.

The board of trustees sent out a campus-wide email announcing the decision, signed by Chairman Bob Finocchio, Jr.

The board makes clear its support of Father Michael Engh, S.J., University president, who had come under fire from the faculty senate for removing coverage of abortion from the employee health plan, saying he has “a duty to enhance and advance the identity and mission of the University as a Jesuit, Catholic university.”  The board states that in excluding abortion from coverage, “the President carried out this duty.”

In November, the faculty senate voted that the administration’s decision to drop abortion from its health coverage plan was “invalid.”  The term “invalid” referred to the process by which the University made the decision without consulting the faculty.  It did not overrule the decision.

Juliana Chang, professor of English and faculty senate president, reportedly said at the time, “Faculty believe that our shared governance structure means that the president should consult the faculty prior to implementing major policy decisions.”

The trustees in their statement point out that the University’s shared governance model “is a recommendation model, not a consensus model.”  The trustees also make clear that they “hold the ultimate legal and moral responsibility and authority for the University and therefore, must ultimately determine and approve University policies and major strategic changes.”

The board cites both the Society of Jesus’ statement on abortion, “Standing with the Unborn,” and Pope Francis:

The President’s position is that the Decision relates to the University’s mission and identity as a Jesuit, Catholic university.  In 2003, the Society of Jesus in the United States (“Jesuits”) issued a statement on abortion entitled “Standing for the Unborn”.  In the statement, the Jesuits affirm that the imperative to oppose abortion “calls forth from us a consistent ethos of life.”  Similarly, Pope Francis in a message to the Americas on December 12, 2013, said that America is called to be “a land prepared to accept life at every stage, from the mother's womb to old age.”  The Decision is consistent with, and conforms to, the mission and identity of the University as a Jesuit, Catholic university.

The exclusion of abortion coverage will not take place until January 1, 2015, as was recommended by the Benefits Committee to afford them an opportunity to explore health care options beyond the University's health care plans and in light of the Affordable Care Act.

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