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Harvard Right to Life Runs Campaign for Student Health Insurance Plan Refunds for Abortion Coverage

Harvard University Health Services in the Smith Campus Center.
Harvard University Health Services in the Smith Campus Center. By Megan M. Ross
By Michelle G. Kurilla, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard Right to Life — a pro-life student organization at the College — ran a campaign this spring calling for students to request a refund for a small portion of Harvard University Health Services’ student insurance plan that goes toward funding abortions.

The Student Health Insurance Plan provides hospital, specialty care coverage, and prescription drug coverage to College students who have not waived the plan. The plan fully covers the cost of abortions for enrolled female students, according to the HUHS handbook for insurance coverage.

Frances Choi ’21 and Gabrielle Landry ’22 — HRL's co-presidents — wrote in an email that the group publicized the refund campaign by sending emails and messages in group chats to students organizations who they thought “might be receptive” to the initiative. The campaign messages included a template that students covered by the Student Health Insurance Plan could send to HUHS to request the refund, according to documents obtained by The Crimson.

“We believe that it is important for students to be aware of how their money is being spent, especially if they have any moral objections to it," Choi and Landry wrote. "We plan on making this information more accessible in the future."

HUHS will refund the portion of the insurance that covers abortions, which amounts to approximately $1, to any student covered by the plan who requests it, according to HUHS spokesperson Michael Perry.

“Students enrolled in SHIP may request a refund for a portion of the insurance premium that covers termination of pregnancy benefits, coming out to approximately one dollar,” Perry wrote in an emailed statement.

Choi, who is also a member of the Catholic Students Association, sent a message over CSA’s GroupMe chat to inform members that they could request the refund. She and Landry noted that CSA was one of the many groups HRL contacted.

“Although HRL itself is officially a non-religious and non-political organization, we did not exclude political and/or religious groups when reaching out to others about this initiative,” Choi and Landry wrote.

CSA President Kevin J. Kearns ’20 said the campaign was run by HRL and publicized to CSA, though CSA did not organize it. He said CSA was not mandating its members to opt out of the fee, though he said he personally supported HRL’s efforts.

“If I were on the Harvard insurance, then I would opt out of it myself,” Kearns said. “I think the CSA is in firm agreement that anyone who wants to opt out of funding something that they feel is against their morals that is totally okay, no matter what they believe.”

Kearns said abortion is against the teachings of the Catholic Church, but added that CSA will support its members regardless of whether or not they choose to opt out.

“We simply promote what the Church teaches,” Kearns said.

HRL has run similar campaigns in past years, according to Choi and Landry. The pair said they were previously unaware HRL had been involved in past initiatives until members of Harvard Law Students for Life brought HRL’s former campaigns to their attention.

Former Harvard Law Students for Life President Drew G. Wegner confirmed in an email to The Crimson that the campaign was initiated at the Law School and that the group's leadership shared the idea with Choi and Landry.

The refund only applies to students covered by the health insurance plan. Students who only pay the Student Health Fee — a fee required for all registered students enrolled more than half-time at the University — cannot request a refund for the portion of the fee that covers abortions, Perry said.

Choi and Landry wrote that they believed students who pay the Student Health Fee should be able to request a refund if the fee funds abortions. Currently, students are eligible to request partial coverage up to $350 for terminations of pregnancy as long as they receive a referral for the procedure from HUHS, according to HUHS’s website.

Perry wrote that HUHS does not provide refunds for the Student Health Hee “on the basis of personal, moral or religious grounds.”

—Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.

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