Very few Yale women receive an abortion while undergraduates at the University. But under the Yale Health Plan’s basic coverage afforded to every student, any female student is entitled to unlimited, free abortions.
Despite the potentially controversial nature of this practice, most students remain unaware of the option. Others are under the false assumption that the number of free abortions is limited to three or four. And most find it surprising to that the general health plan — the coverage all students automatically receive by paying tuition — allows for the procedure to be performed without cost.
But Yale University Health Services Director Paul Genecin said he considers abortions to be a basic part of any health care package and Yale is not unique in offering this service. He said UHS tries to make abortions as easy and as comfortable for Yale students as possible.
“We count abortion as a basic coverage,” Genecin said. “No explanation of benefits goes home, no statement of your health condition. Your parents are not notified … It’s anachronistic for someone who’s ready for the independence of college to have to notify their parents.”
If a student does need an abortion, the surgery is not performed at the UHS center, located at 17 Hillhouse Ave. A student who finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy first comes into the gynecology department at UHS to discuss her options, Genecin said. If she decides to go ahead with the abortion, she is then referred to either Planned Parenthood or another center to take care of her needs. When the woman goes in for her abortion, Genecin said, she discusses her options once again.
UHS makes sure to cover a woman’s mental needs as well as her physical ones, Genecin said. If a student decides to go ahead with an abortion, two weeks after it is done, she returns to UHS for a physical and emotional check-up. She can continue to visit Mental Health Services for as long as she needs.
“There are very significant psychological ramifications for some women in ending a pregnancy,” Genecin said. “Even if they decide they have to do it and it’s the right thing to do, for some reason they feel continuing ambivalence, so we think that it’s often a good idea for a woman having conflicting feelings like that or a sense of guilt or a sense that she’s not doing something compatible with her values to work that out, and a good place to work that out is in the mental health area.”
The choice to refrain from setting a limit on the number of abortions that each female student can have, Genecin said, was a natural one. While it is rare for female students to undergo more than one abortive procedure, setting an arbitrary limit on the availability of abortions is nonsensical, Genecin said.
Not only do few Yale women undergo multiple abortions during their time here, Genecin said, but few women even come in for the procedure. Though UHS will not disclose exact statistics, abortions at Yale are not an especially common occurrence, Genecin said.
Because abortion is covered in both the YHP and basic coverage, theoretically some tuition money is funding such procedures, which members of the anti-abortion group Choose Life at Yale said makes them uncomfortable.
Jacqueline Costrini ’06, the vice-president of CLAY who said she thinks “abortion is tantamount to genocide,” would like to know her parents’ tuition money is not going toward any abortions.
“I think Yale should allow conscientious objectors a $2 refund so we know our money won’t go into something we don’t believe in,” Costini said.
Susan Yolen, the vice resident for public affairs at Planned Parenthood of New Haven, said there is no way to ensure what tuition and other such institutional payments fund. Almost every health coverage plan – including Blue Cross and Blue Shield — provides abortions, Yolen said.
“When any one of us is part of any kind of a pooled resource like an insurance plan or taxation scheme of some kind, we all contribute our portion, and the benefits are reaped by many people, and people pick and choose different services,” Yolen said. “So I do not believe in general you can tease out what is paying for abortions and those people who are against abortion could or should withhold money from the insurance plan.”
CLAY’s objections do not end there, however. Members said that they think Yale needs to do a better job of publicizing all options, not just abortion.
“I feel Yale could do a better job of promoting the life-giving options available to women who are pregnant,” CLAY President Mary Hollis ’06 said in an e-mail. “On campus housing for students who are pregnant or have children could be an option, as well as free or very cheap day care. A pregnant student should not have to feel that her only choices are abortion or leaving school.”
But Maggie Doherty ’07, a coordinator for the abortion rights group Reproductive Rights Action League at Yale, said she thinks the University does not do an adequate job of informing Yale students of any of their options.
“I don’t think Yale makes it an easy process for students to figure out what is available to them and where they need to go and who they can ask questions to,” Doherty said. “Given that, I don’t see Yale promoting one option over another.”
RALY publishes a pamphlet, Doherty said, that informs Yalies of all of their choices, including where to find both abortion venues and pre-natal care.
RALY co-coordinator Rebecca Lemaitre ’05 said she thinks Yale can deal with students on a case-by-case basis.
“I think that it happens so rarely that there isn’t an urgent need for [expanded options for parents],” Lemaitre said. “If a freshman shows up with a child, Yale is not going to put it in the dorm. Do you see a lot of women wandering around this campus with babies? No. So it’s not urgent, but it’s something that the University can be aware of.”
Overall, though, Genecin said that YHP’s policy does not differ from similar plans at other colleges and universities.
“There seems to be a high degree of acceptance that [abortion is] something that happens in health services, and our coverage very comparable to other institution,” he said. “It’s not something at all unusual in college health.”