University President Kevin Quinn, S.J., sent an email to faculty and staff on Feb. 10 outlining The University’s plan to remove abortion coverage from insurance plans.
The University’s current health care plan, created in the 1990s, covers “abortion in cases of rape, incest and to preserve the life of the mother,” according to Quinn.
He plans to change this.
“Although the coverage is limited, it is inconsistent with the moral teachings of the Church. Considerable deliberation and research has made clear to me that because the University is self insured we can, and therefore must, offer insurance plans that are free of all abortion coverage,” Quinn wrote.
Quinn has reached out to the Faculty and Staff Senates, as well as the Faculty Affairs Council to discuss the decision. He will address changes “within the context of (the Administration’s) contact with the faculty” and also plans to personally address the union’s negotiating team.
He concluded his email by urging faculty and staff to “understand the necessity that as a Catholic institution we must behave consistently with the Church’s moral teaching on abortion.”
Following his initial email, Quinn sent a second email to faculty and staff on Feb. 17. He clarified The University’s plan and addressed the ramifications of the changes, expressing The University’s concern for the safety of its members.
“Each of us is called to aid survivors in their healing – physically and psychologically,” Quinn wrote.
Because of this, the new University health care plan will continue covering counseling and treatment for survivors of sexual assault or abuse. Quinn also directed faculty and staff to the Office of Equity and Diversity; the Jane Kopas Women’s Center;
Patricia Tetreault, vice president for human resources; and the Abortion resource page of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for more information.
Quinn offered a final comment.
“My sincere hope and prayer is that you can understand this necessity regardless of your personal views on the subject of abortion,” Quinn wrote.
Michael Friedman, Ph.D., and Kevin Nordberg, Ph.D., officers for the faculty union, explained their initial reactions to Quinn’s email.
“We were very surprised. We did not get any indication from the administration that such a proposal would be coming. In fact, The University’s lead negotiator told us that these negotiations were going to be very smooth and that there would be no controversial topics, so we felt a little blindsided by this because it seems to be more controversial than what they led us to expect would be forthcoming,” Friedman said.
“Another problem that we have is that we don’t know what Father Quinn’s motive is … But there are all kinds of other things that church morality holds. So we are left asking whether he will make changes in those areas too,” Nordberg said.
Friedman and Nordberg expressed that while they have not yet addressed Quinn, they have taken the steps he suggested and contacted Tetreault.
“We met with (Tetreault) for over an hour and asked her many questions about the proposal. Unfortunately, she could not answer many of those questions. And I think probably the most important question we were asking was: ‘What procedures that are currently covered will not be covered under the president’s proposal?’ And she had to tell us that she did not really know,” Friedman said.
They explained that they do not fault Tetreaut for not having answers; however, they expressed the importance of knowing exactly what coverage is being taken away.
Friedman and Nordberg also outlined the steps which will be taken by the Faculty Affairs Council to gauge faculty opinions on Quinn’s decision.
“Our primary duty is to see that the best interests of the faculty as a whole are followed … We will be having the forum this Friday at 3:30 p.m. and it will probably last at least an hour and a half. We’re going to allow faculty members to attend and express what they think we should do,” Friedman said.
He continued, “After that forum, we are going to conduct some form of a poll with the faculty because there are some people who can’t attend the forum and there are other people who, because of various reasons, do not feel comfortable standing up in front of 300 people and saying what they think … Once we have all of that information, the officers will have a meeting to discuss what to do. Right now, I can’t tell you whether the union endorses or opposes the proposal, but we should know relatively soon,” Friedman said.
As this decision unfolds and negotiations are made, Friedman and Nordberg anticipate that Quinn’s emails will spark a broad range of responses.
“It is a very difficult topic to introduce into negotiations because lives, potentially, are at stake,” Nordberg said.
Feb. 27, 2015