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Pro-Life refund request denied

By Miguel Cantillo

In February, the MIT Medical Department rejected a proposal from MIT Pro-Life that would have refunded students the portion of their insurance used to pay for abortions.

In its request for a refund, MIT Pro-Life cited the policy of Harvard University, which gives refunds to students who have serious reservations on the issue of abortion. Harvard's refund amounts to about $1.75.

In a letter addressed to MIT Vice President and Secretary of the Corporation Constantine B. Simonides '57, Pro-Life said that the "hardest thing to understand is why MIT's commitment to safeguarding its students' moral convictions should be less than that of other schools. As confirmed to us by Harvard pro-lifers, such an option is indeed provided by the medical department at their university."

MIT Pro-Life was rebuffed by the Medical Department, which explained that returning insurance money would throw the system into chaos. Linda L. Rounds, executive director of the Medical Department, said that giving such a refund would set a negative precedent. "Anyone could then claim a refund on money that pays for procedures that they object to," she said.

Rounds also said that a refund would defeat the idea of insurance, which is that people "band together." She also believed that the Medical Department would not adopt a refund system similar to Harvard's.

Former MIT Pro-Life President Monnica J. Williams '91 said that such arguments were not reasonable, and that MIT Pro-Life only wanted a token amount refunded to emphasize their stance on abortion.

Some referrals criticized

The Medical Department does not actually perform abortions, but refers women to other clinics, according to Chief of Student Health Services Mark A. Goldstein. But the "Blue Cross/Blue Shield student insurance fees are used and pay for a variety of services, one of which is abortions," he said.

Approximately 80 abortions were funded by the the MIT Health Plans in 1989, according to Nurse Coordinator Dolores Vidal. However, "not all of the referrals we make are for elective abortions," she said. "Some are actually miscarriages."

Health Plan members include students, faculty, administration, staff members and dependents. Vidal stressed that the 80 abortions were not limited to students. "Those figures don't [just] represent undergraduates being referred."

Williams also charged that the head of the abortion clinic to which MIT refers women has been blacklisted by major local hospitals. According to Williams, the hospitals will not accept women who have complications resulting from abortions they receive at the Repro Associates clinic, located in Brookline.

Williams believed that students receiving abortions "should have a decent place at least."

The public relations director at Repro Associates was not available for comment.

Both Vidal and Goldstein said that no problems had resulted from referring Health Plan members to Repro. Goldstein said, "I think it's a reputable firm. . . . Certainly we would not tolerate a group that gave us questionable results."

"We are satisfied with the services they have rendered for our patients," Vidal said. She added that Health Plan members are also referred to Crittenton Hastings House and Clinic.