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Conscience Magazine

Abortion Coverage Cuts Met with Protest at Catholic Universities

February 19, 2014

The ongoing debate over what a “Catholic identity” means in higher education has been invoked during cuts to abortion coverage once offered at two California Catholic universities, Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and Santa Clara University. Loyola dropped insurance coverage for “elective” abortions in staff plans, although employees can pay for an additional plan out of their own pockets, the Los Angeles Times reported in October. That same month, Santa Clara made a similar move to remove abortion from its faculty plans. In both cases, the university administrations cited what Santa Clara President Michael Engh called “our core commitments as a Catholic university [which are] incompatible with the inclusion of abortion coverage.”

This understanding of Catholic identity was challenged by employees at both schools. Anna Muraco, an associate sociology professor at Loyola Marymount, told the LA Times that the decision was unfair because it disproportionately burdened female employees. Protesters picketed a Santa Clara forum called to discuss Engh’s announcement about the new policy. English Professor Michelle Burnham discounted the significance of the meeting, as she told the San Jose Mercury News: “There’s no indication to us that he’s interested in hearing a truly open discussion.”