On Oct. 7, the Board of Trustees of Loyola Marymount University voted to eliminate insurance coverage for elective abortions for faculty and staff in 2014. But the Jesuit university will provide employees an option to have abortion coverage if they pay for it themselves through an alternative health care plan. The decision followed weeks of heated and partisan debates over academic freedom and Catholic identity on the Westchester campus. “We believe that the right to life and dignity for every human being is a fundamental part of Catholic beliefs” and “all other rights flow from this primary right to life and dignity,” board chair Kathleen Hannon Aikenhead and LMU president David Burcham wrote in a letter to the school’s community.The enactment of Affordable Health Care has set off nationwide debate about the rights of religious schools, colleges, hospitals and other institutions to be exempt from health plans that offer coverage for abortions. And a special provision by the Obama administration has allowed religious institutions and employers some accommodations.“When we learned that LMU had, for the first time, been given the option to exclude elective abortions from its principal health insurance plans, we decided that the governing board of LMU should address this difficult issue,” the letter pointed out. The board stressed that all other parts of reproductive health coverage will stay the same. Therapeutic abortions, contraception and other kinds of reproductive care mandated by the State of California will be covered. Moreover, another health care plan, managed by a third party to be named, will cover elective abortions at a “slightly higher” premium for employees. Faculty and staff members will be responsible for the cost of the plan; and no LMU money will go for this additional coverage.The concession has already made at least one side unhappy. “I don’t think it makes much sense,” LMU philosophy professor Christopher Kaczor remarked. “It’s like saying, ‘Abortion is seriously wrong. I will not drive you to the abortion clinic. But wait here and I’ll have my brother drive you.’ And that somehow gives them clean hands.”