This University's Recent Decision is a Step Backwards for Catholic Schools

How strongly should religiously affiliated universities adhere to the beliefs of their religion? The Catholic-affiliated Loyola Marymount University thinks very strongly, at least regarding abortion. Loyola Marymount has been in the news recently for its vote to stop covering elective abortions on the university's health care plans. Universities both religiously and non-religiously affiliated should respect a woman's right to choose.

While Catholic beliefs side against abortion, universities are traditionally places that welcome faculty, staff, and students who have a diversity of views. Loyola has welcomed non-Catholic professors, and currently less than half of the faculty is Catholic. About half of the 9,400 Loyola students are not Catholic.

Students can't become fully educated while surrounded by only others of the same religion. That's why Loyola — and many other religious universities — received praise upon welcoming students and faculty of religious affiliations other than Catholic. This inclusive spirit fosters diversity and the meaningful exchange of different ideas. 

The recent change to Loyola's heath plan makes it difficult to predict if Loyola and other religious academic institutions will uphold the same spirit of inclusion in their academics.

It remains to be seen where Loyola will draw the line. Yes, the university does still offer a separate, more expensive plan, where elective abortions are covered. But if religiously affiliated universities decide to step in a more conservative direction, other steps may follow suit, which could have direct repercussions for students. Women ages 20 to 24 account for about one-third of the abortions performed each year. This is because many female college students are unprepared financially or emotionally to raise a child. Having the option for an elective abortion in their health plan is crucial.

A university affiliated with a religion should provide opportunities for those who want to follow that religion's teachings, but it shouldn't require everyone to follow them. If a university opens its doors to different kinds of people, then it should be ready to learn and discuss issues with them rather than make them follow the party line.