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Abortions No Longer Free for Many Columbians

Update, 10/12 9 am: There’s been some debate in the comments about whether the covered abortions are entirely free, even for students on Columbia insurance. According to page 19 of the insurance brochure, insurance will pay up to $500 for an abortion.

Update, 10/12 6 am: The CU Dems, who first tipped Bwog off to the change in policy, have released a statement pledging to fight for abortion coverage.

Members of the CU Democrats Executive Board have been in continuing conversation with the administration and will continue pressing them on this issue until we achieve a fair solution in which all Columbia women have confidential and complete coverage for abortion. We are planning to launch a campaign in the next few days, working with other students, alumni, and professors to fight for this critical protection. We are confident that if the administration is serious about caring for its students, it will find a solution which ensures that all Columbia students have the same level of care that they did last year.

This could now cost you hundreds of dollars.

Thanks to a change in Health Services policy, it is now much more expensive for most Columbia students to get abortions.

In the past, student abortions were covered by the Health Services Fee, the mandatory $825 fee that all Columbia students must pay each year. Since all Columbia students pay the Health Fee, one abortion per term was covered for every Columbia student. (Just to be clear, Columbia wouldn’t perform the abortions, just pay for them.)

But this year, things are changing. According to the Columbia Student Health Insurance Plan brochure:

Certain services formerly covered under the Columbia Health Fee will now be covered under the Columbia Student Medical Insurance Plan. As a result, the Columbia Health Fee for the 2012-13 plan year will be $824 reduced from $900. The following benefits will now only be covered under the Basic and Comprehensive plans:

  • Treatment of accidental injury or medical emergencies
  • Off-campus mental health services
  • Elective termination of pregnancy
  • Outpatient treatment for chemical abuse

If you have Columbia Health Insurance, then you won’t notice a change; you’ll still have one abortion covered per year. But many students don’t have Columbia Health Insurance, because they’d rather remain on their parents’ health insurance than have somebody pay another $2,000 for Columbia’s policy. If their parents’ insurance doesn’t cover abortions, then those students will have to pay hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket if they want an abortion. And many parents’ health insurance plans won’t cover abortions; in fact, if your parents work for the government, it is illegal for their health insurance plan to cover abortions. This wasn’t a problem when abortions were covered under the Health Fee, since all students had to pay it. But now that abortions are only covered by the Columbia Insurance plan, many students are out of luck.

So why the change? It has to do with Health Services’ interpretation of Obamacare. Basically, Health Services is worried that Obamacare will treat the Health Fee as a full insurance plan that doesn’t cover enough stuff. To avoid this, they took out all the things—like abortion coverage—that made it seem like an inadequate health insurance plan.

Health Services may think their hands are tied, but it’s not clear that’s the case. Other universities are able to cover abortions for all students without running afoul of Obamacare. Plenty of groups around the country have set up basic funds to cover abortions for people in need. It’s not clear why the University couldn’t just set aside a pile of money for students seeking elective abortions.

Pregnancy test via Wikimedia Commons

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  • 2014 says:

    @2014 Oh no oh no this is not good. I’m really glad Bwog is covering this. I hope that something can be done. Is there anything students can do about this?

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Go get some free condoms from Health Services and shut up.

      1. Behold! Another victim of piss-poor sex education says:

        @Behold! Another victim of piss-poor sex education Condoms ain’t foolproof, yo.

        1. Anonymous says:

          @Anonymous Fuck their ignorance and fuck Bwog’s CSS.

      2. nony-mouse says:

        @nony-mouse Yo,

        Either you’re affected by this or you aren’t getting any. It’s not just a women’s issue.

        1. Anonymous says:

          @Anonymous Most people who have sex don’t have abortions.

          1. CC '15 says:

            @CC '15 This is factually incorrect. In the US, 1/3 women has had an abortion by the age of 45.

          2. Julia says:

            @Julia I guess CC’15 ^ cannot do math, because even if 1/3 of women in the U.S. has an abortion before age 45 (doubtful), this still doesn’t negate the previous posters claim that “most people who have sex aren’t having abortions.”


      3. 2014 OP says:

        @2014 OP It’s not like I’m planning on using the service, but I think it’s very important it’s there for students for whom birth control has failed. I am very careful about birth control, but these things can fail, and an unwanted pregnancy in my junior year at Columbia would be a nightmare. I don’t want some poor girl to have to drop out of school or to have her family turn away from her for getting pregnant.

        1. Anonymous says:

          @Anonymous So why don’t we focus on providing resources for women to have the baby? It makes me really sad that no where in this entire thread does anyone comment on the possibility that a pregnant woman might want to raise her baby or give it to another couple who can’t have one. We should be supporting these women and striving to make it so they REALLY have a choice, so that there are resources and a supportive community for mothers. A pregnancy shouldn’t have to be a “nightmare” scenario.

          1. Sure says:

            @Sure But it’s not an article or thread attempting to present a comprehensive discussion of unplanned pregnancy options — it’s about a specific one of those options which, unbeknownst to many of us, has recently been diminished

          2. Re: sure says:

            @Re: sure Okay but how much of our student health fee goes toward these resources now or before the changes? my guess is none. Why should Columbia have us subsidize one “choice” but not the other? It seems to me that the attitude on this thread, like the attitude reflected in the student life fee, is that any young pregnant woman would be ruining her life by not having an abortion. Women are legally allowed to choose whatever they want, and I think Columbia needs an attitude change about the other half of the choice equation.

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous some sort of a rally for a pool of funds like at peer institutions?

  • CC'13 (Now Going to Hell) says:

    @CC'13 (Now Going to Hell) Will Res Life at least provide us with hangers?

  • Anon says:

    @Anon This gets back to a major issue that apparently existed previously: is 825 dollars sufficient to pay for one abortion? If not, then it seems that every student at this school was forced to pool money into a fund from which money was drawn to pay for abortions, regardless of their beliefs about the morality of the procedure and without full knowledge that their money could facilitate abortions. The ethical problems that state of affairs poses are immense.

    Whatever questions the previous policy should have raised, we now face the current state of affairs. If, as you suggest, Columbia “set aside money,” whose money? Compulsory payments from students should not be used to fund abortions given the substantial interest pro-life students have in avoiding being complicit with abortion. A basic respect of freedom of conscience should guarantee that right.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous I don’t think guys should get ED drugs either, but do you see me complaining?

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous This is a completely different issue. People who are pro-life see abortion as killing a baby, it’s not just about individual morality because another person is involved. Society already legislates the belief that murder is wrong, Pro-lifers just think abortion fits that definition. And that’s what makes this case way different from providing money for ED drugs or for birth control or any other potentially controversial treatment there might be.

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous I don’t think you really understand how medical insurance works…

    3. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Yeah, no. Both Columbia and Barnard put a limit to how much money they’re willing to give you to cover your abortion, and I’ve never heard of a student getting one “for free” — it just takes the cost down from, say, $500, to $50. And don’t talk to me about the “ethical problems” surrounding abortion when a) a member of the party you (loudly) support just got caught pressuring his mistress to get an abortion even though he’s allegedly pro-life ( and b) you’re a walking boner with nothing at stake because you will never run the risk of becoming pregnant.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous wait, what? so because someone else is a hypocrite, that means anyone who agrees with ONE thing he’s ever said is also a hypocrite? good call, good call.

    4. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous lol. really? and how do you feel about columbia insurance covering forms of birth control?

      1. anonymous says:

        @anonymous #nocondoms

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous I don’t really think you understand how medical insurance works…

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Oops that was supposed to be a reply to the guy above.

  • Anon says:

    @Anon I will be giving free abortions in the hamilton 7th floor bathroom for the next 3 weeks in order to protest this. Please bring your own coat hangers

    1. x_x says:

      @x_x All my hangers are wood.

      Coincidentally, wood is also the cause of my pregnancy.

  • Anon says:

    @Anon This very biased article fails to address a very important question: why exactly should Columbia provide FREE abortions to students?

    1. something says:

      @something Yeah… I’m actually more concerned about what exactly we’re losing with “Treatment of accidental injury or medical emergencies.”

      1. CC 2013 says:

        @CC 2013 If you’re on your parents’ plans, you sign a waiver form indicating that you are covered for certain things. Emergency medical care is now included in that waiver, as it is in the Columbia plan. So everyone at Columbia is covered either through the Columbia plan or their parents’ health insurance.

  • CC 2014 says:

    @CC 2014 does this mean i cant “bang it raw” anymore?

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Yes, your genital warts are as good as ever.

  • CC '14 says:

    @CC '14 Torn… On the one hand unwanted pregnancies carried to term often collectively cost taxpayers’ money, and on the other hand I’d rather my money not be used to pay for the abortion of some idiot who was stupid enough to actually get pregnant accidentally in a first world country in this day and age.

    Assuming that the women in question are having sex willingly… if you’re part of that maybe .0001% of people who got pregnant after taking your pill the same time every day and using a condom than yes, I will pay for your abortion… otherwise I’d rather not.

    1. BC '14 says:

      @BC '14 “Assuming that the women in question are having sex willingly… ”
      Are you suggesting that the powers that be should ask women whether they had consensual sex? That they should check whether they took their pills on time, and used a condom with each instance of intercourse? (Those are, of course, the only methods that women use to prevent pregnancy.) That they turn down the women who don’t deserve to have coverage for their abortions?

      Who should draw the line between the good women who don’t deserve their pregnancies and the “stupid” women who do?

      1. CC '14 says:

        @CC '14 Firstly, I added the “assuming…” qualifier because obviously in the case of rape it is not the woman in question’s fault if she gets pregnant, and thus it would not be right for her to be unable to get an abortion if she decides that is the best option for her.

        Secondly, condoms and oral contraceptive seem to be the easiest methods of effectively preventing pregnancy (other than abstinence, of course, but lets pretend we’re past advocating /that/ as a method of birth control) from my perspective, but I did not intend to suggest that there were no other options (IUDs, whatever… they’re not as popular amongst college-age women who have never had children, but of course they’re a totally valid method).

        Thirdly, if I had a magical answer to exactly how CU health insurance should or shouldn’t cover abortions, I wouldn’t have been “torn” about anything, would I?

    2. anon says:

      @anon Goddamn I’m ashamed to be in the same grade as you.

  • Anon says:

    @Anon I hear Columbia is opening a day care center in the Manhattanville campus. Conspiracy? I think so!

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Seems like the fetus drop deadline has passed as well.

  • Judging from these comments says:

    @Judging from these comments …a better idea might be to make vasectomies or testicular cauterization mandatory for some of the fucking idiots that I apparently go to school with.

    1. I'm Margaret Sanger says:

      @I'm Margaret Sanger and I approve this message.

  • SEAS '15 says:

    @SEAS '15 Why is everything always about abortion? Does no one care about mental health? CPS is limited to 8 months— someone with a serious mental illness will need far more than that. I find that far more unsettling– you can choose not to have sex (excluding rape etc etc). You can’t CHOOSE not to have bipolar disorder. This has nothing to do with my stance on abortions, but rather to do with my disgust that people have completely glossed over serious medical conditions.

  • CC'11 says:

    @CC'11 This is fantastic reporting, Bwog!! Thanks for the heads up.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous I’m really curious about how Health Services’ ended up at this interpretation of the law, and where they drew the line at what services to cut and what to keep.

    It seems like this is just a move to justify dropping services in order to cut costs, so that if it turns out later that they were really supposed to be providing them and they get caught for not having provided, then they can just say oops, we interpreted the law wrong. Just fine us some minuscule that does not compare at all to what we would have lost if we did provide the services required. Or better yet, just mandate that we do have to start providing them and let us go with a slap on the wrist.

  • Stats Major says:

    @Stats Major Wait a minute… if our student health fees go down by $76…. That means…
    Sum of reduced fees = Sum of abortion costs.
    Total reduced fees collected from undergraduate population = $76 * 6065 students =$460940
    Costs of Abortion in 1st Trimester ~ $600
    Cost of Abortion in 2nd Trimester ~ $1500
    Assuming that you will probably realized that something is wrong early, lets assume that 75% of abortions are performed within 1st Trimester.
    Therefore weight cost of abortion = $825
    Number of Columbia girls getting abortions a year = 559
    Which means that… 1/5 girls around you are getting abortions!!!!!!

    1. Kuman says:

      @Kuman Terrible math NO WAY are you a stats major :/

    2. Anon says:

      @Anon I think it makes more sense that 1 girl is getting 559 abortions a year

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Even as a sexually active female, I see no reason why abortions should be covered in the Columbia student health fee. An abortion is not a right, and for a large percentage of the population it’s not an issue and not something we should have to pay for. (Not to mention the fact that there are numerous resources that will help a woman afford an abortion OR carry the pregnancy to term) If a student’s parents’ insurance doesn’t cover abortions she is free to elect the Columbia comprehensive plan–It’s a cost accounted for in financial aid so there’s really no excuse. This article is super biased, Bwog. This is a relatively serious issue not one of your snarky joke articles, and I expected better of you.

    1. SEAS '13 says:

      @SEAS '13 Why is abortion not a right?

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous just because something is legal doesn’t mean you get to have it, it just means you won’t go to jail for it. the legality of abortion is not the issue here at all.

    2. anon says:

      @anon What a fucking pointless thing to say. Most health resources won’t be used by a large part (if not the majority) of the student body anyway, so many things could be deemed “not a right.” Neither is the student health center. We realize it ain’t a goddamn right to get free abortions. Thanks for the useless argument.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Thanks, Obama

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Obama’s America…

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Obama wanted them covered. It was the Republicans that took it out.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous i don’t drink, but my funds go towards CAVAing all the students that get shitfaced every weekend. while i understand that alcohol use is not as controversial an issue as abortion — they are both legal. we should take care of each other here, even if you will never need an abortion, don’t believe in substance abuse, don’t have a mental illness, etc.

    1. CC '15 says:

      @CC '15 Well said! We have seen far too much anguish and stress on this campus; we need to do more to support each other during difficult times. We need our school to do more for us, too.

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous the distinction here is that an abortion isn’t a necessary medical procedure like getting your stomach pumped is or whatever. In all but .01% of cases a pregnancy is not going to kill you. In 100% of cases, an abortion kills another human being. I acknowledge that pregnant women at Columbia face a very difficult situation, but there is still an argument to be made that procuring her an abortion is not “taking care of” a fellow student, and it’s certainly not taking care of her child.

      1. anon says:

        @anon Sounds like you’re really concerned about that “child.” Maybe you could take it out of their uteruses and raise it for them instead?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous @Anonymous: I hear you, and your argument is valid. But my point was that this mentality of I shouldn’t pay for something that I won’t use (not that I don’t believe in) is stupid. Our fees go to plenty of things we don’t all “use” — athletics, psych counseling, medical care (ie cava), science research , etc. Our ginormous tuition funds a whole university and a whole student body, not just the clubs and services that you use. Duhhhh

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous This seems like a totally reasonable and defensible policy. There is a weird gray area because Columbia has both a comprehensive insurance plan and the health services fee. It makes perfect sense that offsite medical treatment (like all four of the benefits listed) should be covered by the insurance plan, while services that Columbia Health Services actually provides would fall under the fee. (I bet that if you had surveyed students before this, most, like me, would have assumed that’s the way it already was.)

  • Virgil says:

    @Virgil Abstinence just got a whole lot sexier!

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