By Valerie Schmalz, OSV contributing editor
If you work for the Jesuit University of San Francisco, no matter which USF health insurance you choose, it will pay for an abortion, sterilization, artificial contraception and some infertility treatments. And that is unlikely to change anytime soon, despite a report here earlier this year.
The USF Faculty Association president, Elliot Neaman, said today that if the university tries to remove the abortion benefit, it would file an unfair labor practice complaint.
Whether abortion involves the killing of a child is “not relevant,” Neaman told OSV. “You are mixing up morality and contractual obligations,” he said.
Based on a report from USF, we had reported the good news that the University of San Francisco had notified its faculty that as of March 1 it was removing abortion coverage — both surgical and chemical — from its Blue Cross plan (but was unable to do so from a recently negotiated Kaiser Permanente HMO plan).
But Wednesday, Gary McDonald, a top communications official for the university, told us that "altering an insurance plan once it goes into effect is more complicated than we anticipated."
"We have not yet been able to drop that coverage. A number of unions have voiced objections to any change in their insurance, and we are working with our employee groups, our attorneys and insurance brokers to understand the complicated legal and procedural details," McDonald said.
Communications official Anne-Marie Devine confirmed that the upshot is that all health plans offered by USF include abortion.
“It is my duty to enforce a contact," Neaman said. "The university cannot unilaterally change the contract. They have to go to the bargaining table. All benefits are negotiated. The Faculty Association contract expires in 2011." The issue can be renegotiated, “if they choose to put that on the table. All the ideological religious stuff is completely irrelevant," he said.
Neaman said that fact USF is willing to offer the Kaiser HMO plan which includes a $15 co-pay for an abortion means their stance on the Blue Cross plan “is kind of a hypocritical position.” USF just extended the Kaiser HMO plan in a contract with the adjunct faculty association this month.
Removing the abortion benefit because it is in the Blue Cross PPO agreed to in the labor contract “would be something like abolishing tenure. It is a point of law,” Neaman said. “It would make everything else in the contract vulnerable. ... If you have a contract with someone you can’t break it.” Neaman said the Blue Cross PPO has included abortion and contraception for many years: “It probably goes back 20 years,” and the university just noticed it when it was brought to their attention by journalists, he said.
Neaman said the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion is irrelevant because USF is not legally a Catholic university. "A long time ago, to get federal funding, the Jesuits divested themselves of the university so it is basically run by the board of trustees. They cannot apply for an exemption as a Catholic university because they could lose federal funding because of that," he said.
Asked if he disagreed with Church teaching on abortion, Neaman said, “It is completely irrelevant what my opinion is. I enforce the contract. That is my job.”