Outcry flares over Calif. abortion push in Catholic colleges

Loyola Marymount University. Credit: alanak via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Amid backlash from religious liberty and education advocates, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown's administration has ordered abortion coverage in health insurance plans for two Catholic universities.

“California Catholics are no longer safe to practice their faith within their own institutions. Gov. Brown's decision demonstrates that, in California, tolerance does not extend to people of faith and moral conscience,” David Luke, co-founder of Renew LMU, told CNA Aug. 26.

Luke's group aims for the renewal of Catholic identity at the Los Angeles-based Loyola Marymount University, from which he graduated in 1993.

He said that Gov. Brown and his administration has given the university leadership “a unique opportunity to prove that being a Catholic institution still means something.”

Brown, he noted, “has given them an opportunity to stand in defense of innocent human life and religious freedom. I hope they take advantage of that opportunity.”

Luke's comments follow California government officials' scrutiny of health care plans designed to remove some abortion coverage from health plans that Loyola Marymount University and Santa Clara University provide to their employees.

On Friday, Michelle Rouillard, director of California's Department of Managed Health Care announced that health plans that restricted abortion coverage were illegal under state law.

Her Aug. 22 letter to health care companies active in the state instructed them to cover abortion on the grounds that it is “a basic health care service.” She said that some contracts “limiting or excluding coverage for termination of pregnancies” may illegally discriminate against women.

Under California's Knox-Keene Health Care Service Plan Act of 1975 and judicial rulings applying the California state Constitution, Rouillard's letter said, “all health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally.” The letter instructed health care companies to remove “discriminatory coverage exclusions and limitations,” including those that limit coverage to “therapeutic” or “medically necessary” abortions.

The department's action, however, could face legal challenges.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal religious liberty advocacy group, co-authored with the Life Legal Defense Foundation a letter to the California department objecting to the action. The two groups said that the action is a “clear violation” of the federal Weldon Amendment, which bars states that accept federal funds from discriminating against institutions and health care entities that do not provide coverage of abortion or refer for abortions.

The California government department “cannot deny approval to or otherwise penalize a health insurance plan for failing to provide coverage of some or all abortions,” said the letter, which was written on behalf of the Cardinal Newman Society.

“When Congress enacted the Weldon Amendment, it sought to ensure that the government could never strong-arm pro-life employers into paying for abortion coverage; therefore, California’s decision is illegal,” Matthew Bowman, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, said Aug. 22.

“No state can ignore federal law in a pursuit to conform everyone to the state’s own ideology on abortion,” Bowman added. “Faith-based organizations should be free to operate according to the faith they espouse and live out on a daily basis.”

The letter threatened to file complaints with the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Peter Warren, an assistant director of communications at Loyola Marymount University, told CNA Aug. 25 that the university is waiting to hear from its insurance companies on how the decision affects the university.

Deepa Arora, communications director at Santa Clara University, said Aug. 25 that the university has reached out to its insurers.

“We will confer with them to ensure that our health plans continue to be fully compliant with state and federal law,” Arora said.

A fight for Catholic identity

Christopher Kaczor, a philosophy professor at Loyola Marymount, told CNA/EWTN News Aug. 19 that California government officials’ scrutiny of abortion coverage in health plans are hindering Catholic colleges’ ability to be consistently Catholic.

“A Catholic university, if it is to retain its identity, must be distinctive in its fidelity to fundamental truths.”

Kaczor cited the Society of Jesus’ 2003 document “Standing for the Unborn,” saying that “the defense of human life prior to birth is a justice issue.”

He said Loyola Marymount, a Jesuit university, “should not, in any way, facilitate abortion.”

In fall 2013 both Loyola Marymount and Santa Clara announced that they planned to stop paying for employees’ elective abortions, the Associated Press reports. They said their insurers, Anthem Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente, had secured approval from state officials.

In an October 2013 letter, Santa Clara University president Father Michael E. Engh, S.J., said that the Catholic university’s “core commitments” are incompatible with abortion coverage.

State officials revisited their decision following agitation from pro-abortion rights faculty and staff at the universities, as well as activism from pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Santa Clara University faculty voiced their rejection of the changes to the health care plan by a vote of 215 to 89 in December, the California Lawyer magazine reports. Before the policy was revised, Santa Clara’s abortion coverage also applied to dependents of faculty and staff.
 
The universities' revised health plans still offer supplemental coverage for abortion through a third party.

Kaczor said that Loyola Marymount’s health coverage change is a “significant, meaningful improvement” over the previous policy that covered elective abortion. He said university president David Burcham’s initial proposed policy was “a wonderful affirmation of our Jesuit character.”  

However, he said the change actually implemented by the university’s board of trustees was not as strong because it still cooperated in the provision of abortion.

Luke, of Renew LMU, agreed that the university’s current policy still makes it “morally complicit” in the procurement of abortion.

He said it was “not clear” that Loyola Marymount’s leadership “has the commitment to Catholic mission required to oppose an assault on religious freedom.”

He noted that the president of Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles was invited to speak on campus despite the protests of concerned students, faculty, alumni and others.

Luke said that Loyola Marymount's Catholic mission and identity “have been in decline for years.” He charged that the university’s leadership “would rather bow to a loud, secular faculty majority than do the right thing.”

“The faculty who lobbied Governor Brown were not satisfied with the affordable abortion coverage provided by their Catholic employer,” Luke said. ”They will only be satisfied when their Catholic employer actively participates in the killing of the unborn.”

He encouraged prayer for the restoration of the university's Catholic character.


Voices

Iowa and us in a Year of Mercy

Kathryn Jean Lopez

It was in the general-purpose room of St. Francis of Assisi Church in West Des Moines that Donald Trump made his last pitch to Iowa voters, inside a caucus room. He wanted to make sure people remembered that not only will he build the wall on our border with Mexico, but that he’s the only candidate who will make Mexico pay for it.

Events

February 2016
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29

February 6, 2016

  • Saturday, February, 6

    Second Annual Sisters of Notre Dame Nun Run 5K & 1-Mile Fun Run, 8 a.m., Hosted by the Sisters of Notre Dame and La Reina High School and Middle School in Thousand Oaks. Course starts on Dover Avenue in Thousand Oaks and finishes in front of La Reina School. Open to runners and walkers of all ages and ability levels. Professional chip timing technology will be provided to 5K runners by Vendurance Sports. Participants will receive a free T-shirt (while supplies last); pancake breakfast available after the race. Pre-registration is $35 per person for the 5K, and $25 for the 1-Mile. All proceeds support the Sisters of Notre Dame Life and Ministry Fund, allowing the sisters to continue their ministries in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. For more information, contact Chloe Vieira at cvieira@sndca.org, or visit sndca.org/nunrun. 

    Math Competition for Middle School Students & Problem-Solving Workshop for Teachers, 7:45 a.m., Don Bosco Technical Institute, 1151 San Gabriel Blvd., Rosemead.A mathematics competition for fifth through eighth grade students. The 44th annual event will offer awards for the highest scoring individual and teams. Participants must register by Feb. 2 atwww.boscotech.edu/events. Space is limited. The cost is $8 per individual and $5 per person for teams of four or more, up to 15. Check-in begins at 7:45 a.m.; one-hour test starts at 9 a.m. Free activities offered and food available for purchase. Award ceremony follows the competition at 11 a.m. For more information, contact Valeria De Luna at MathCompetition@boscotech.edu.

     

    San Fernando Regional Day of Prayer for the RCIA, 1 - 4:30 p.m., St. John Baptist De La Salle Church, 16555 Chatsworth St., Granada Hills. An afternoon of prayer for those who will celebrate the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion this Lent. Catechumens, candidates, sponsors and team members will come together in prayer with Bishop Joseph V. Brennan. To register or for more information, contact Sandy Cole at (818) 368-1514 or dre@sjbdls.org.

     

    Second Annual Valentine's Dinner/Dance, 7 p.m., St. James School - O'Gorman Center, 4625 Garnet St., Torrance.Dance music from the 50's to the present; $20 per person. Proceeds will benefit our seminarians. For more information, call the parish office at (310) 372-5228, or Ely at (310) 944-3355.  

     

    Snowflake Swing Dinner/Dance, 6 p.m. to midnight,St. Francis of Assisi Church, 1523 Golden Gate Ave., Los Angeles. Great food, door prizes and dancing (assorted music), featuring the LA Trio. Tickets $25; RSVP by Feb. 2. For reservations, call Liza at (323) 664-1305 or Renee at (213) 413-3036. 

Get our news by email

Bob Smith BMW 300x250
Bob Smith Toyota 300x250
Bob Smith Mini 300x250