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Pro-Life portests health insurance

By Prabhat Mehta

MIT Pro-Life is renewing its efforts to have abortion coverage in the Student Health Insurance plan made optional. Currently, the Institute's group insurance provides abortion coverage for all members.

Juan A. Latasa '91, former vice president of Pro-Life, said Pro-Life is not protesting the policy's coverage of abortion, but rather the requirement that all students pay for it. The insurance plan pools the resources of all members to provide its coverage, and thus uses funds from all students to finance abortions.

At registration yesterday, Pro-Life members passed out slips of paper asking students to support them by petitioning Linda L. Rounds, executive director of the MIT Medical Department. "It seems only reasonable that the coverage for abortion should be a matter of choice so that in the future students with strong ethical objections to abortion are not forced to pay for them," read the form.

Pro-Life also distributed fliers during Residence/Orientation Week critical of the Student Health Insurance coverage of abortions, and erected 80 small white crosses and Stars of David in front of the medical center on Friday. "The Cemetery of the Innocents" protested the abortions funded by the insurance plan last year.

"MIT Pro-Life cannot simply settle for a `no' on this issue," Pro-Life stated in a recent press release. "We will be taking whatever legal action is necessary to oblige the administration to comply to our . . . demands."

On Wednesday, Latasa met with an attorney to consider possible legal action against MIT if students are not allowed to waive abortion coverage.

Rounds said the Medical Department did not think students should be allowed to get refunds for any particular part of the overall policy's coverage. "We don't want to make special arrangements for any special interest group," she said.

Pro-Life members first made their request for a refund last February, but were turned down by Rounds, who felt that providing refunds to abortion opponents would "instigate a chaotic system with different people wanting refunds for different reasons."

In a memorandum circulated to Medical Department staff members on Thursday, Rounds said, "Other individuals may also object . . . to paying for illness caused by habits such as smoking or abusing drugs."

Latasa refuted that assertion. He said that since no other medical procedure is as controversial as abortion, it should be given special consideration. He also noted that Harvard University has for several years been offering students the option of waiving abortion coverage with no apparent difficulty.

Although Rounds has not spoken with Pro-Life members since last spring (despite claims by Pro-Life that they have been engaged in "negotiations" with the Medical Department), she said the Medical Department will still consider the issue of abortion funding if student concern is substantial. But she stated firmly that the Medical Department will not use the insurance plan for any "political statement."