February 1, 2001

Yale Health Center to Offer RU-486

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Yale University Health Services added RU-486 to its list of covered prescription services for the Yale community early last month.

The pill, also called Mifepristone, is an FDA-approved drug that pregnant women seeking an abortion can take to induce miscarriage.

Some Yale students opposed to abortion for religious or ethical reasons requested that the university refund their tuition costs that go toward paying for abortion treatments.

The university refused, saying it does not believe in refunding tuition money because the pill is just like any other health service, according to Tom Conroy, a university spokesperson.

He believes that the university has a right to offer a “legal and approved treatment” by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Yale’s community of 15,000 students, faculty and staff.

“Many services on the [Yale] Health Plan are not applicable to all members of Yale University Health Center. However, the services ought to be available because some [members] may elect to receive it,” he said.

Yale’s policy requires that all students purchase health coverage from the university’s health services, according to an article published in the Yale Daily News.

Introduction of the pill at Yale’s health center has led many members of the Yale community to question whether or not it should be offered at all. The Yale Pro-Life League has led protests opposing abortion on the the New Haven, Conn. campus.

Elaine Shay, a graduate student at the Yale School of Medicine, wrote in her Yale Daily News column last week, “… I equate abortion with homicide. It is never justifiable to intentionally take the life of an innocent human being.”

Yale University has not issued a formal response to the protests, according to Conroy.

“Yale encourages and supports free speech for every member of the community,” he said. “They’re entitled to their opinion.”

Last October at Cornell, Gannett: University Health Center also considered adopting the pill for the University health care plan. However, Gannett decided that it does not have the resources to do so.

“Offering RU-486 is outside the scope of care at Gannett for the 19,000 students and staff at Cornell,” said Sharon Dittman, associate director for community relations at Gannett. “It requires a level of sophisticated equipment and specialty we don’t have.”

According to Dittman, the FDA has strict guidelines for monitoring the termination of a pregnancy. Administering RU-486 may require additional treatment such as ultrasound or surgery, which Gannett cannot offer.

“We provide counseling for women who are pregnant or who think they are pregnant, and we can refer them to qualified specialists,” Dittman said. “However, Planned Parenthood is the only place that offers abortion services in Ithaca and they have limited staffing.”

She contrasted Gannett with Yale University Health Center.

“Since Yale is in an urban area with a medical school and a teaching hospital, it has the resources to fulfill the FDA requirements,” Dittman said.

Some students in the Cornell community, such as Michael Schmidt ’04, vice chairman of the Cornell Republicans, agree with the Yale protesters’ opposition to the pill.

“I personally feel it is wrong for a university to harbor or promote abortion of any kind,” Schmidt said. “By offering the pill on campus is to allow every student to very casually have an abortion anytime they have unprotected sex,” he added.

Dittman, however, thought Yale University’s decision was made independent of political influence.

“I feel pretty confident in guessing that Yale University adopted RU-486 based on a medical decision and not on a political decision.”

Archived article by Ritu Gupta