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Abortion, insurance seperate issues

(Editor's Note: The Tech received a copy of this letter addressed to Margaret F. Keady '93 and Juan A. Latasa '91.)

I received your very detailed letter concerning the wishes of the MIT Pro-Life group to obtain rebates for the abortion coverage portion of the Student Health Insurance plan ["Pro-Life requests partial insurance refund," Oct. 5].

My judgment is that you are dealing with two separate issues that you argue are one. Your concern about abortions is separate from the issue of financing health care through an insurance policy.

Health insurance is a mechanism for financing individual needs through a levy on many. It makes possible a payment capability for a wide range of expenses that would be a burden for one person. Depending on the policy there is blanket coverage for all or most health care expenses with selected mandated benefits and exclusions.

In the case of our student insurance plan, payment for abortion is covered. Most pregnancy terminations at MIT involve very personal factors in that decision, often with significant counseling as part of the process.

It would be audacious for any outsider to claim wisdom and judgment about abortion when this very personal issue is being considered. The decision is never trivial for that person or for those offering support, friendship or professional advice.

One might consider other conflicts in moral issues relating to health that involve values, responsibilities, human life and principles. These include effects of pollution, active and passive smoking exposures, irresponsible use of alcohol and other drugs, driving under the influence, or mental and physical abuse of minors and the elderly, to name a few.

If we agree to rebate a portion of your student premium, why shouldn't other groups make a similar request. Insurance programs cannot offer the lowest premiums possible for the many if exclusions are controlled by interest groups, however valid the cause may seem.

Your letter suggests that MIT's decision to make abortion coverage optional should rest on constitutional law. While our decision has not been based on such consideration, we have consulted with counsel.

You assert that the United States Supreme Court approved, in the Abood case, the withholding of union dues when members disagreed with the union's position in negotiating health care coverage that included abortions.

Counsel has informed us that the Abood decision, in fact, reached exactly the opposite result. The court indicated that withholding union dues for the purpose of objecting to abortion coverage would not be approved.

A more relevant case, we are advised, would be National Education Association of Rhode Island vs. Garrahy. In that case the court struck down a state's attempt to require private health insurers to change coverage for abortions to optional availability and at no additional cost.

The court held that such a requirement would create an unconstitutional burden on a woman's right to choose abortion. If constitutional, applied to a private institution like MIT, the NEA case suggests that MIT could not make such coverage optional, as requested by your group.

Arnold N. Weinberg->

Medical Director and Head->

MIT Medical Department->