SANTA CLARA (KCBS) – The decision to drop elective abortion coverage from the Santa Clara University health insurance plan surprised some faculty, who say the move goes against the school’s tradition of openness.

Since president Michael Engh announced the change in a letter to the Jesuit university’s 1,600 employees, dated Oct. 3, several on the faculty have criticized him for violating a tradition of shared governance and consensus.

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“Santa Clara has a stated commitment to shared governance, inclusiveness, openness and so forth,” said history professor Nancy Unger. “This is such a powerful violation of all that Santa Clara says that it stands for.”

Another faculty member, quoted in the San Jose Mercury News, zeroed in on hypocritical comments in Engh’s letter that the new policy was motivated by sensitivity towards women.

“The male Jesuits running Santa Clara University feel they know what God wants regarding women, women’s bodies and women’s reproduction,” said anthropology professor Mary Hegland.

Health plans must cover birth control under the Affordable Care Act, but Obamacare allows employers to offer plans that restrict abortion coverage.

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Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, also a Jesuit school, recently decided not to cover elective abortions in its health plan.

Church dogma leaves Catholic universities little choice when it comes to abortion, said Father Jim Bretzke, a professor of moral theology at Boston College.

“An elective abortion is a serious moral evil, and if it’s in our power to end that on whatever level we can operate, we should do our best to end that moral evil,” he said. “They believe that that is a moral evil and so they’re pursuing dropping that from their packages.”

Ironically, Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian, just signed a bill allowing some nurses and midwives to perform abortions.

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