SANTA CLARA -- Santa Clara University employees will lose their elective abortion health care coverage next January over the objections of its faculty senate, the university's board of trustees announced this month.

In its decision to uphold the change announced last fall by Santa Clara President Michael Engh, the trustees wrote that Engh has a duty to enhance the university's Catholic and Jesuit "mission and identity," including the church's opposition to abortion.

"In making the decision, the president carried out this duty," explained board Chairman Robert Finocchio Jr., in the Feb. 14 document. "The decision was not a decision of condemnation or of exclusion, but rather one that flows from the university's identity and mission as a Jesuit, Catholic university."

Last fall, college professors protested the move to eliminate elective abortion coverage and urged the board of trustees to reverse it. Some complained that faculty leaders were not consulted; others took issue with Catholic doctrine being imposed on employees who don't share such beliefs.

Engh later announced he would delay the benefits change until next January, giving the faculty senate time to review the new policy and "explore health care options beyond the university's health care plans" and in light of the Affordable Care Act and state policy changes.

Loyola Marymount, a Jesuit university in Los Angeles, announced a similar shift last year but allowed its employees to access coverage for elective abortions through a separate insurance plan for which they would bear the entire cost of coverage.

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