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By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
CHAPEL HILL — Pressure is mounting for the University of North Carolina Board of Governors to eliminate abortion coverage from its college health insurance plan, a policy in which students are automatically enrolled unless they show proof that they already have a creditable plan.
“It is deeply disturbing that a state sponsored health insurance plan is providing coverage and therefore funding, for the direct destruction of innocent human life,” wrote the Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis, Bishop of Charlotte, and the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh, in a call to action in the “Catholic Voice NC.” “We call on the UNC Board of Governors to halt the requirement of students to underwrite those who support this unacceptable practice which seeks to end the life of the weak and defenseless.”
Students for Life of America (SFLA) has also stepped up its efforts to get to the bottom of why the Board of Governors set up the abortion coverage and why, when challenged, they aren’t taking immediate action to negate it or at least establish a better way to ensure that students who oppose abortion aren’t forced into paying for the abortions of their classmates.
The controversy began about a month ago when the SFLA found out that the state university system, which includes more than 220,000 students at 16 campuses, was requiring all students to have health insurance and was signing up those who didn’t with a policy from Pearce & Pearce — a policy which covers up to $500 toward elective abortions and has an 80 percent PPO coverage rate.
While the Board of Governors insisted that there was no coercion to join the state plan and that students were free to purchase their own coverage, members of SFLA pointed out that individual plans are cost prohibitive to most students. Since insurance is required, those who oppose abortion but can’t afford a separate plan were forced to either drop out of classes or pay the roughly $700 per year knowing that a portion of their premiums would be used to kill the unborn.
After SFLA launched an e-mail campaign demanding that students be given a no-abortion option, the Board of Governors on Aug. 13 changed its policy and announced that students could “opt out” of abortion coverage. Though appreciated, the move is far from satisfactory to SFLA, who is now taking its concerns to the Governor.
“Abortion should not be in any health care plan,” wrote Kristan Hawkins, executive director for SFLA, in a letter to Gov. Bev Perdue further demanding. “Who ultimately made the decision to have abortion coverage included in the student health care plan?”
She challenged the UNC System’s policy of automatically enrolling students in the abortion plan and then advising them that they would have to take extra steps, either online or by phone, to “opt out.”
“Why are they not automatically enrolling students in the non-abortion health care plan? If students want a plan that covers abortion then they should have to ‘opt in,'” the letter said.
Pro-life supporters also question why both options are still being billed at the same rate and whether or not the insurance company is truly keeping funds separate.
Further, there is concern that the system may be violating U.S. law by using federal funds to pay for abortions since the administration is classifying insurance fees under each student’s “total cost of attendance.”
“Federal financial aid will be increased based on the abortion health care plan. In turn the federal aid directed to the university for such students will offset the cost of attendance including the abortion health care plan resulting in federal funding for abortion coverage,” Hawkins contends in her letter. “Has the UNC System informed the Department of Education that federal funds will be used to pay for abortion health care plans?”
The letter, copied to North Carolina’s U.S. Congressional contingent and to University of North Carolina President Erskine Bowles, requests that the governor investigate the insurance situation and the UNC System health care policies.
The Bishops’ statement, a missive to more than 800,000 Catholics across the state, calls for parishioners to contact the UNC Board of Governors and ask that the abortion coverage be rescinded so that the policy will no longer deny “true provision for the health and value of all persons concerned.”
“We commend students and their parents for taking a stand on this issue and pray that they will continue to do so until the university system changes its policy and stops promoting abortion,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Already the e-mails and media coverage of this issue are making a difference.”
Take Christian Action: “The UNC System is still considering abortion to be health care. Abortion is not health care neither for the pre-born child or his mother,” Students for Life in America have argued to the UNC Board of Governors. Let’s stand with them and our Catholic friends by going to SFLA’s web site and signing the petition they have provided by clicking here.