The last meeting of the Student Assembly (S.A.) proved to be one of the most controversial of the semester. The Assembly voted on Resolution 49, a piece of legislation proposing to remove abortion coverage from the student health plan. Over 30 people from the Cornell community attended the meeting, hoping to voice their opinion on the issue.
“Rumor has it there are going to be some fireworks,” said Representative Michael Bronstein ’02 before the call to order. Before the meeting began, the tension was already rising. Certain members of the Assembly and some of those in the audience wore stickers declaring slogans such as “pro-choice” and “I support safe and legal abortion.”
Before Resolution 49 was opened for discussion, Uzo Asonye ’02, president of the Assembly read a letter from Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president of student and academic services.
“Any recommendation from the Student Assembly would not affect the 2000-2001 student health plan … students do not have an exclusive input on the plan should the Student Assembly vote to put an end to the provision,” Asonye read from the letter.
The letter continued explaining the senior administration’s view on the discussion that was about to be held by the Assembly, and that regardless of how the S.A. voted, the administration was not inclined to change their policy.
“The administration is not inclined to eliminate a long time provision of the student health plan, particularly when there is good reason for it,” Murphy’s letter ended. International student liaison Derrick Zandpour ’02, responded to Murphy’s letter.
“It is completely inappropriate for her to give her opinions rather than stick to her job, which is to review resolutions that have already been passed. We have a right to pass this resolution,” Zandpour said.
After Asonye read Murphy’s letter, Patrick Schloss grad was called to present a case as to why abortion should be removed as an option from the student health plan.
“I’m from the Cornell Coalition for Life. We believe life should be preserved from conception to natural death. And let me just say that I find it upsetting that some people are wearing tags before they’ve heard the arguments. I request that they remove them before they hear the arguments,” Schloss requested.
“You are free to suggest that, but the Assembly members are free to wear what they like,” responded Asonye.
Schloss then went on to explain that abortion was “an elected procedure and neither an illness nor an injury.”
“One thing you mentioned is that abortion is not safe, but pregnancy isn’t safe either. And abortion may be a choice, but pregnancy is not,” countered Cynthia Kou ’02, new student representative.
Schloss approached the S.A. with a reason other than to spark a community-wide debate on abortion. Schloss, a recipient of student health insurance is concerned that his money is supporting abortion procedures.
“You don’t have to use this policy. You don’t have to be on this. And if this issue involved grad students, it shouldn’t even be in front of the S.A. It should be in front of the GPSA [Graduate and Professional Student Assembly], not here,” said Michael Bronstein ’02 representative at large.
“It’s the cheapest plan available, and I’m a poor grad student. Unless you want to raise grad stipends, I have to use this plan,” answered Schloss.
“I think this debate is about people having to fund procedures they are morally opposed to. This is about giving people who morally and ethically object to funding the procedure the right to opt out,” said Minority Representative Amy Gerschoff ’02.
At this point in the meeting Vice President Kira Moriah ’03, representative for Arts and Sciences, proposed an amendment to Resolution 49. She suggested that a check-off box be added to the student health form. The proposition would introduce the option that those on the health plan could opt not to fund abortive procedures.
“The reason I propose this is I think it is a middle ground,” explained Moriah.
After some discussion on of the proposed amendment and a two minute recess, the assembly voted down the amendment.
After over an hour of discussion on the proposed resolution, the S.A. vetoed the Resolution. There were five votes supporting, two abstaining, and thirteen objecting.
“We’re very proud that we got five votes. We left an impact on campus. What more can you ask for?” exclaimed Schloss shortly after the vote. Schloss does not plan on stopping his fight here.
The next item of business was Resolution 51 regarding Cornell bridges. New Student representative Cynthia Tang ’04 presented a plan that proposed to support the renovation and upkeep of campus bridges.
“What is Cornell if not its bridges and bike paths? What’s going to happen if we don’t [support this] and one of these bridges collapses and one of us falls seven or eight stories, smashing our heads open and falling to our death?” asked new student representative David Carlucci ’02. Resolution 51 passed unanimously.
The Assembly’s closing order of business was voting to continue funding for the Multicultural Greek Letter Council.
“This is sort of a thankless job. I admire all of you for taking the initiative to come to meeting after meeting. I want to extend this thanks especially to those who have a different view of things than mine, always making sure we were careful of the direction we were headed in. I hope you continue to be an advocate of your views,” said Asonye.
Heather Schroeder contributed to this story.
Archived article by Christen Eddy