News | Student Life

CU Dems look for alternate abortion funding

  • CHOICES | Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, CC ’15 and Columbia Democrats’ lead activist, has asked the administration to explain its decision to remove guaranteed coverage for abortions.

A revision to Columbia’s health policy this year could potentially leave many students without insurance coverage for abortion—a change that has the Columbia Democrats up in arms.

Last year, abortions were covered by the Columbia Health Program fee, which all students are required to pay. This year, abortion and three other previously covered services became components of the Columbia Student Medical Insurance Plan and thus are no longer covered by the required fee, leaving students who remain on their parents’ or their own insurance policies without guaranteed coverage for those services. (Students are not required to purchase the Columbia plan if their parents’ health plans meet certain requirements, but coverage for abortion is not one of those stipulations.)

The change was not widely publicized, so when Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, CC ’15 and CU Dems’ lead activist, came across the revised policy, she set out for an explanation from administrators—and was disappointed that they were not as alarmed as she was.

“They’re not really feeling pressured or that this is an urgent need for students … even though they know what a vulnerable position that is for young women who have to make that choice,” said Ridolfi-Starr, who is leading discussions for CU Dems about potential alternate funding options for student abortions.

Administrators from Health Services initially deferred comment to Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin, who in turn deferred comment back to Health Services. Health Services did not respond to further repeated requests for comment.

Ridolfi-Starr said she and CU Dems are particularly concerned because the required fee used to cover confidential abortions.

“If you can’t talk to your parents about that, then you’re in a very challenging position, one that could affect your mental health but also your ability to be a student, and one that Columbia should be very, very concerned about,” Ridolfi-Starr said.

The Student Health Insurance Plan brochure says that the fee was reduced from $900 last year to $824 this year because it no longer covers elective termination of pregnancy, off-campus mental health emergencies, outpatient treatment for chemical abuse, and treatment of accidental injury or medical emergencies.

The notice comes on the 17th page of the 101-page brochure, available online, which CU Dems members said was unacceptable notification.

“This used to be a guarantee that all students had … and Columbia has taken that away, both without sufficient notification to the students who are going to be affected and without implementing any formal guarantee,” said Austin Heyroth, CC ’15 and CU Dems media director.

Club members had been trying to contact administrators for over a month before they were able to speak with someone who was “in the know” about the change, Heyroth said, and once they did, they were disappointed in the response.

“They knew that it was going to have a huge financial impact on students for whom this did become an issue,” Ridolfi-Starr said. “And their plan was to Google a list of people in New York who would give abortions and tell students to go out into the city and fend for themselves.”

Ridolfi-Starr and Heyroth said that administrators reportedly told them that moving the four services, including abortion, out from the required fee was in line with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Ridolfi-Starr said that the CU Dems plan on reaching out to women-, gender-, and queer-related clubs and progressive activist groups such as Law Students for Reproductive Justice and Radical College Undergraduates Not Tolerating Sexism.

She said one possible solution would be to create an “access fund” to pay for abortions—a pool of money similar to a grant that could cover medically necessary abortions.

At least one campus group is in support of Health Services’ change. Nathan Grubb, SEAS ’13 and webmaster of Columbia Right to Life, said the club had not been aware of the policy change when asked by a reporter, but would support it.

“Subsidizing something that is unhealthy and that is a bad choice—it’s the same thing as subsidizing cigarettes,” Grubb said. “We believe that there are better choices that the administration could support.”

ben.gittelson@columbiaspectator.com

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Anonymous posted on

...Because abortion causes heart disease and lung cancer. - Columbia Right to Life

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Anonymous posted on

subsidizing cigarettes and covering abortion costs are not at all the same thing. cigarettes poison your lungs gradually over time. not being able to afford a child (for health or financial reasons) has so many other consequences. it's not about self-inflicted harm but about two lives that could potentially be ruined.

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Annoyed posted on

So two lives could be ruined so kill one of them and it's all good. You're logic is flawless.

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Anonymous posted on

And you don't know your you're from your your!

it's about which life in context is more important. no one likes abortions. no one wants to end a life that could be. it is a traumatic experience for many women and is NOT something that is taken lightly.

but what's more important? saving the life of someone that doesn't yet exist over the life of someone who is established in society? what if the woman can't healthily carry the baby to term and her life would be threatened by doing so? is it worth it to risk her life to save this one?

and for the record, pro-life groups are all about saving these unborn, UNWANTED children. what happens once they're born? when they're adopted, or worse, kept and neglected?

improve the foster care system and provide better welfare for struggling single parent families before you bring these kids into a world that doesn't want them and where their likelihood of entering a life of crime and poverty is higher than their chance to go to college.

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Annoyed posted on

Grammar is a social convention, it really don't matta.

The thing is, how many abortions really are a life saving procedure? I'm all for abortions if the effects could possibly seriously harm or kill the women. But for the most part, abortions seem to be for irresponsible teenagers and young adults who want a quick way out of their own mess.

But you're right, the foster care system isn't the most efficient and caring one. But shouldn't you give them a chance? Does it not seem unjust to decide that someone's life is going to be miserable and useless? You have no idea what you are taking from the world when you have an abortion. Could be the first Asian president for all we know.

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Anonymous posted on

Abortion = addictive cancer-causing habit. Got it.

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Anonymous posted on

Why did this Spec reporter only get a comment from the webmaster of Columbia Right to Life instead of the officers of the group? This doesn't seem like balanced reporting.

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Anonymous posted on

Not sure, but reporters get comment from people who are willing to give comment. The officers might not have responded.

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Anonymous posted on

That's false. I know for a fact that she did not contact the President nor the Vice President for an interview or comment. Instead, she only contacted the webmaster, even though the officers' information is more readily accessible through LionLink, the group Facebook Page, etc than Nathan's is.

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Anonymous posted on

The writer of this piece, Ben, is a male--not the "she" you mention. Not sure what facts you're operating on but perhaps you are mistaken. If your group--as from your tone, it sounds you are involved--has a different opinion you'd like to express, I suspect they would update.

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Anonymous posted on

I realize that Ben is a male. The Spec reporter who gained a comment from Nathan is female - and she did not contact me (the President). I'm disappointed that Spec failed to contact myself or the Vice President for comment; the comment in the article does not adequately represent our organization's thoughts at all on the issue.

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Anonymous posted on

CU Admin shows a deficit of care for students, and Right to Life shows willful ignorance of medicinal facts.... disappointing, but not surprising.

I am behind the Dems' efforts 100% and really hope they push CU towards a solution. Losing that coverage sucks.

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Anonymous posted on

I like that the picture is literally just Zoe. Because it's gotten to the point where she is synonymous with abortion rights.

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anon posted on

You can thank the Republicans and big insurance companies for this change.

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anon posted on

Plan B is over the counter. Why are people in 2012 getting abortions?

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Anonymous posted on

I used plan B and still got pregnant and had to get an abortion. But it was in 2011 so I guess it's irrelevant..

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Anonymous posted on

Why did you "have to" get an abortion?

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Anonymous posted on

Why does she need to justify her choices to you?

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Anonymous posted on

I'm a guy, I can't get abortions. Why am I paying for it?!?!?!

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Anonymous posted on

I'm a girl. I can't wear 90 percent of the prophylactics supplied at Health Services. Whey am I paying for them?!?!

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Anonymous posted on

Cause its cheaper than child support

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anon posted on

The same reason why you pay for breast cancer and prostate screenings.

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Anonymous posted on

You do realize that when a girl gets pregnant, there was a guy involved as well?

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Anonymous posted on

As Spec Opinion blogger Mikey Zhong recently wrote (http://spectrum.columbiaspecta..., people wonder why tuition is so high and so many students are struggling to pay... Because things that only a fraction of students want/use are mandated and then the entire community is coerced into paying for them. Exhibit A: Barnard pool, Exhibit B: funding abortions, Exhibit C....

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Anonymous posted on

Has anyone thought about the fact that many do have coverage via their parent's insurance? I know you might not want to talk to your parents about needing to use the coverage, but that is not the same as it being unavailable.

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Anonymous posted on

I'm sure they did.
Federal and state level legislation make it difficult for many plans--even private ones--to cover abortion care. The Hyde Amendment prevents any plan using federal funds from covering it (this includes Medicare and Medicaid). More than 20 states have laws restricting or prohibiting abortion coverage entirely. In the new exchanges set up through Health Care Reform, at least one plan in every exchange is must not include coverage for abortion. Many, many plans will not include this protection. So they are right that for many, the coverage will, in fact, be unavailable.

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CMSGRET posted on

In NYState, women on Medicaid do have abortion coverage as long as they claim it is for their mental health. That's the "health of the mother" reason that ensures no limit on abortions. Medicaid money explains why abortion clinics are located in poor neighborhoods.

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Anonymous posted on

This is true; NYS medicaid is an exception in that it covers abortion. However, the "health of the mother excpetion" (which applies to terminations in the third trimester, specifically) is actually not included in NYS law (it was passed before Roe v. Wade and is less protective). So it does have a provision for the life of the mother (i.e. in the case of definite imminent death), but not for health. Though federal law technically supersedes state, you'd be hard pressed to find a doctor willing to jeopardize their license and perform that 3rd trimester abortion for only the "health" here.

And this does not change the reality that students here, from many other states and on many different plans, will not have the coverage.

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Anonymous posted on

Just because boys can't get pregnant does not mean their insurance should not cover abortions. This also doesn't imply that every girl on campus is getting herself good and preggers to use the insurance money for all its worth.

It's a safety net. Without it, lives can and will change.

This isn't partisan, it's not gender-based - it's a basic right to healthcare that the school is removing.

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Anonymous posted on

I'd like to see comments from people who have actually used this benefit.

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Anonymous posted on

I have used this benefit. My life would have been much harder without it.

And I can think of at least 5 friends who have had to get abortions in my 2.25 years here. Did you not think this was a real issue??

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CMSGRET posted on

To me, pregnancy is not an illness. I'd want to know if there is prenatal coverage in the policy. When a student is pregnant, is there proper coverage in the policy for her and her unborn baby?

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CMSGRET posted on

...and when you write Ms. Ridolfi-Starr is "CU Dems’ lead activist" did you really mean she is the lead activist (in all things) or the lead abortion activist?

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Anonymous posted on

Lead Activist is a Dems board position.

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Anonymous posted on

The policy change makes perfect sense: the four changes are all medical issues that are handled offsite, not by Columbia Health Services. The Health Services fee should be just that, a fee to cover the use of Columbia Health Services and its facilities. It is totally defensible to say that an insurance plan should cover other services, not Columbia's funds.

Discussing whether Columbia should make strides to ensure everyone's insurance covers items it deems necessary (and whether abortion should be included in that list) is a totally different discussion.

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Annoyed posted on

Why are the other things being removed not getting the same if not more attention?

How many people even get an abortion through Columbia? Or why in the world should I even help finance someones abortion when I don't believe that a majority of abortions are morale?

Maybe instead Columbia, being an educational institution, should teach preventive measures so that an abortion doesn't need to be an option. Otherwise, sounds like CU Dems is just putting their foot in the door to make a stance on a policy issue. Maybe the focus should be somewhere else and not highlight the CU Dems agenda.

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Anonymous posted on

The other things are still covered for everyone, read the whole article. Abortion is the only thing that isn't both the CU plan and in the waiver requirements.

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Annoyed posted on

TLDR. Midterms. I need the sparknotes version.

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Anonymous posted on

The problem is that not enough people were using this service, so it wasn't worth it for the University to continue paying for it. If students want this service restored, they should demonstrate a need for it -- by getting as many abortions as possible, and complaining loudly to the administration about the cost. Only when Columbia students are ridding their bodies of unwanted fetuses faster than New York's obstetricians can keep up will Columbia's tin-eared administration finally take action.

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Anonymous posted on

Based on conversations with CU Health, this is not true--the reason it changed is because Health Care Reform changed the definition and requirements for insurance benefits. It had nothing to do with how many were utilizing this service.

Trivializing a serious health and well-being issue, and making up facts does not add to the discussion

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