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House Master Seeks to Reduce Rate of Unwanted Pregnancies

By Linda S. Drucker

James A. Davis, master of Winthrop House, has asked Dean Fox to study the statistics on unwanted pregnancies among undergraduates.

University Health Services (UHS) estimates that 3 per cent of female undergraduates--about 70 women--become pregnant each year. UHS refers most of these women to local abortion clinics.

Davis said last week the size of that figure surprised him. He suggested the University study the pattern of pregnancies to see if a particular group of women--freshmen, for example--lacks adequate birth control information. "My intuition tells me Harvard women are sophisticated enough to use birth control properly," Davis added.

Fox referred Davis's suggestions to Maryln Lewis '73 assistant dean for coeducation.

But Lewis said last week the University is doing all it can--including analyzing pregnancy data--to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Despite Davis' request, Lewis said the administration is not planning any "campaign to reduce pregnancy or reduce sex."

"Of course, we would prefer to have absolutely no unwanted pregnancies," Lewis said yesterday, maintaining that some contraceptive failure is inevitable, particularly because many women are switching from the pill to the less-effective diaphragm.

Davis, however, said the University's 3 per cent figure is "an absolute rock bottom minimum" because some women may go to abortion clinics without consulting UHS.

"I only know of the people who come to see me for abortion referrals or pregnancy counseling," Nadja Gould, UHS assistant director, who compiled the statistics, said last week.

Gould added that because UHS will reimburse women $150--most of an abortion's cost--they have an incentive to visit UHS.

Dr. Warren E.C. Wacker, director of UHS, said last week Harvard's pregnancy rate is about that same as that of other Ivy League schools and is "nothing to be alarmed about."

"To the best of my knowledge the number of unwanted pregnancies here is about even with the number at Princeton and Yale," Wacker said.

Davis says that even though comparative statistics seem to indicate Harvard's rate is average, the number of unwanted pregnancies can still be reduced.

Officials at Princeton University Health Services confirmed that their pregnancy rate was also 3 per cent last year. But Dr. William Billings, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale, said last week the rate there was closer to 1 per cent.

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