Abortion Uproar at Santa Clara University

By Scott Budman and Chris Roberts
|  Thursday, Oct 10, 2013  |  Updated 5:42 PM PDT
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Outrage and uproar are the words of the day at Santa Clara University, where the school's president has elected to drop health insurance coverage for faculty and staff who pursue elective abortions. Scott Budman reports.

Outrage and uproar are the words of the day at Santa Clara University, where the school's president has elected to drop health insurance coverage for faculty and staff who pursue elective abortions. Scott Budman reports.

Outrage and uproar are the words of the day at Santa Clara University, where the school's president has removed elective abortions from employee's health care plans.

 The new rules go into effect in 2014. 

The university is Catholic -- and the Catholic Church is not fond of abortion. Still, the move has taken professors off guard, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Father Michael Engh, Santa Clara's Jesuit president, informed 1,600 employees that the school's "core commitments as a Catholic university are incompatible" with offering elective abortion coverage in health insurance plans.

There's uproar among faculty, who say that the dictum by fiat violates the school's principles of "openness, diversity and inclusiveness" -- even if it's consistent with Catholic theology. Others say that dogma is precisely why SCU moved against abortions -- it can't be seen as "anti-Catholic," one professor told reporters.

Not many members of Santa Clara's faculty and staff were willing to talk to NBC Bay Area, but at least one professor is speaking out about the decision and how it was handled.

“The policy comes as quite a shock,” said Nancy Unger, a history professor at Santa Clara University.

Unger, who is Catholic, said she disagrees with the president's decision and the way it was presented to faculty and staff.

“With Santa Clara there was no discussion,” Unger said. “There was a request for discussion afterwards, which many of us felt was really sort of patronizing.”

And since, unlike Professor Unger, many faculty members don't have secure tenure, and some worry there won't be much discussion.

"In my letter to the president, I said, I'm not quite sure now what my role is at this institution that I always believed was truly committed to shared governance,” Unger said.

Another Catholic university, Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, also chose this week to not cover elective abortions for its workers.

The abortion debate is alive and well in America -- Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian, just signed two bills into law that would allow Californians more access to abortions.

Federal law, namely, the Affordable Care Act, requires employers pay for contraception and sterilization -- but not abortion, the newspaper reported.

State law also requires employers to cover "therapeutic abortions" when the mother's health is at risk, but there's no such mandate with terminating pregnancies "electively," the newspaper reported.

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