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Harvard Right to Life (HRL) kicked off a campaign on Monday to encourage students to request a nominal refund for the portion of their Health Services fee that funds elective abortions.
HRL members have been tabling at dining halls every night this week to provide cards that students can use to request the refund and which HRL will send to UHS.
While HRL has provided these cards at the Activities Fairs in the fall of past years, this week represents its first initiative to publicize the refund option in dining halls.
Paul C. Schultz ’04, president of HRL and also a Crimson editor, said the organization had collected 96 student-signed cards by tabling in Annenberg, Adams House, Eliot House, Lowell House and Winthrop House during dinner the past two nights.
“I’m not trying to pressure people into opting out of the [fee] or not opt out,” said Laura E. Openshaw ’05, an HRL member who tabled in Adams yesterday. “It’s a good thing for students to realize that the option is out there, even if they don’t think it’s the right option for them.”
$1.09 of each student’s Health Services fee on the term bill this year is allocated to subsidize elective abortions for students, according to UHS Director David S. Rosenthal.
According to the 2002-2003 Guide to University Health Services, students can receive a refund of this fee by sending their own notes explaining that they have “strong moral objections to sharing the cost of elective abortions.”
Rosenthal said that 80 to 101 students have requested the rebate each year while he has been at UHS.
Schultz said he hopes to persuade the University to include an option on the term bill for students to decline to pay the portion of their Health Services fee that funds elective abortions.
Schultz cites the $35 Undergraduate Council fee—which students can choose not to pay by checking a box on the term bill—as an example of the option HRL advocates for the portion of the Health Services fee that UHS may use to fund elective abortions.
UHS does not perform abortions, but will refer a student to a licensed clinic and refund her $275 of the cost of the abortion.
First trimester abortions usually cost between $400 and $600, and second trimester abortions usually cost between $500 and $5,000, according to the Feminist Health Center, an advocacy organization for women.
Co-President of the Radcliffe Union for Students (RUS) Ilana J. Sichel ’05 said she thinks allowing students to decline to pay that portion of the fee could limit the ability of female students to get abortions.
“The aim, of course, is that every student would get their dollar back and then deny students that right to choose because it would be underfunded,” Sichel said.
President of Harvard-Radcliffe Students for Choice Abigail L. Fee ’05 said she does not object to HRL’s effort to inform students about the Health Services funds set aside for elective abortions—but encourages students to consider the implications of requesting the rebate.
“Taking your one dollar back isn’t just making a statement,” Fee said. “It affects the choices in health care that women on campus receive.”
Fee said she believes the UHS rebate policy shows a lack of support for a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion.
UHS does not offer rebates for any other portion of the Health Service fee, according to Rosenthal.
“I don’t think there’s any other service that has created any type of ethical or moral issue like this one,” he said.
Daniel Choi ’94, who first publicized the refund policy in 1998, said he discovered the fee demarcated for elective abortions when he was looking through the “Pregnancy Termination Option” section of the health services guide.
“It is a morally sensitive policy and Harvard should treat it as such,” Choi said. “It’s a simple matter of re-writing the handbook in a way that makes the issue more public.”
HRL Member Maximilian Pakaluk ’05 said he thinks the University should more clearly show that part of the Health Services fee funds elective abortions.
“I think it’s very inconsiderate on the part of the University to assume that their students wouldn’t have a moral objection since it’s such a grave issue,” Pakaluk said.
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