The Yale Health Services is including RU-486, the well-known abortion pill, as part of the basic health services offered. I do not want to enter the discussion whether abortion is right or not. Whoever thinks it is right will most likely continue thinking so and vice versa.
My point is that almost half the people in the United States (and worldwide) think it is wrong, and I think such an opinion should be respected, just as the opposing opinion.
Such respect is not guaranteed if it is almost compulsory to subscribe a basic health plan that includes abortion coverage. Harvard lets students who “have strong moral objections to sharing the costs of elective abortions — request a rebate of the annual cost per individual of this coverage” (Guide to Harvard University Health Services, 2000-2001). The (symbolic) refund is tiny, but I believe the amount is not the important point.
It is argued that: 1. Some people will not want to have dental services — or whatever service — covered, some will, and Yale cannot offer many different health plans or 2. It would be too expensive to do what Harvard does.
To respond to the first point, essential differences exist between certain illnesses and abortion (without discussing whether it is right or wrong). I do not know of any other single health issue so widely discussed, in which almost half the people think it is wrong (recall voting numbers in Congress whenever an abortion issue arises).
People may discuss covering dental services, but I sincerely doubt those opposing it regard it as a murder. A serious qualitative difference exists between opposing something you think it is murder and opposing it for some other milder reason.
In response to the second point, I sincerely doubt it is so expensive; otherwise Harvard would not have done it. And as many things in life, it is a question of willingness and priorities. For example, Yale has committed itself very seriously to affirmative action. This entails costs — printing, sending booklets, committees, etc. But willingness to oppose discrimination makes some expenses reasonable. And I praise the University for committing itself so seriously against discrimination and in favor of justice.
Ingenuity comes with willingness. If Harvard’s system is difficult to implement at Yale, there are hundreds of other systems. For example, if returning a symbolic amount of money (even one cent) to those students checking a corresponding box on a form were not feasible, I think the opinion of those opposing abortion would be perfectly respected if that money were redirected to a humanitarian non-profit organization.
In case it were complicated, it would not even be necessary to actually count every single checked box. Since the opinion of those students gets equally respected if any amount of money is given to this organization, extrapolating from a quick sampling of 100 health plan forms gets a rough total number of the students checking the box, and Yale can donate the corresponding amount.
I believe the error in this estimate would not matter that much (it means redirecting more or less money per student) because the point is that they can express their opinion, and it gets respected in accordance with the non-discrimination policy of Yale University. Sampling 100 forms might take a single person 20 minutes, and even if all students (roughly 10,000) chose to check the box, at one cent per person (the absolute minimum) it totals $100. Not particularly expensive, I think.
I sincerely hope the non-discrimination policy of Yale not only applies to respecting the opinion of those favoring abortion, which is already respected, but also of those opposing it.
Ignacio Uriarte-Tuero is a graduate student in the mathematics department.