Gender confirmation surgery coverage does not infringe on opposing ethical beliefs

By Stephanie Youssef

In light of the recent decision on March 6 by the University’s Board of Trustees to approve the addition of gender confirmation surgery, or GCS, to the student health insurance plan for next year, many debates surrounding the controversy have been heating up around campus.

However, as an advocate for people’s personal beliefs that may derive from religion or other morals and ethics, I find myself questioning what implications this new, controversial choice brings. 

First, let me clear one thing up: I am not here to judge whether or not GCS is a necessary procedure. I am not a doctor by any means.

Rather, I am here to discuss why, despite how conservative some of my opinions may be, I don’t have any problems with the addition of gender confirmation surgery coverage to the student insurance plan.

Some supporters defending the choice to add GCS to the University’s health insurance coverage argue that nobody should have a problem with this new change because it increases the cost of student insurance by less than three dollars. 

However, it is not the cost that brings with it the controversy. 

Rather, it is the fact that some people have religious, moral or ethical beliefs that do not necessarily agree with the implications of this kind of procedure. Where I personally support the rights of gender equality, I am also a strong advocate for people’s religious freedoms, and would not support the additional coverage of this surgery if it jeopardized some students’ beliefs.

However, it does not. Allow me to explain.

The board in charge of the University Student Health Insurance has the right to vote on what surgeries to cover and not to cover. The administrators that voted to add GCS coverage should be well aware of the controversy surrounding the issue and thus the risks this choice may have on potential religious customers of this health insurance plan. However, the student health insurance plan already covers birth control, another controversial health issue that may go against some people’s beliefs. 

I don’t think that this recent choice by the board was intended to alienate any students who may be opposed to the procedure, but rather to be more inclusive to certain members of the LGBT community.

Regardless of their motivation, I don’t see how adding gender confirmation surgery coverage to the already controversial, and optional, University student insurance plan infringes on anyone’s religious rights for precisely that reason: It is optional. 

If you have some strong religious, ethical or moral reason not to want any of your money to potentially go towards someone’s sex change, you can easily opt out of the student insurance plan by signing a waiver and purchasing your personal health insurance coverage from some other privately owned insurance corporation. It’s not like any of your tuition money is going to fund GCS. 

It’s pretty simple. 

Some may also argue that the student insurance plan is more affordable than traditional health insurance plans, and should thus be more sensitive to the needs of financially disadvantaged students who oppose GCS. Where the cost of student insurance for an undergraduate is $254 a semester, the average cost of single healthcare coverage in the United States will run you over $5,000 a year. At this point however, it is the responsibility of the student to measure if they value their opposing beliefs enough to pay for the more expensive, non-University affiliated coverage.

The discussions surrounding this recent change go beyond GCS and religious issues. Many of the arguments for and against adding this procedure stem from people clinging to the conventions of a certain point of view and failing to reflect upon who this coverage will actually affect. 

The fact that the student insurance plan is optional means that this new coverage has the potential to help members of the LGBT community without affecting those who opt out of the insurance plan for whatever reason. 

Taking this controversial issue and forming an opinion about it based on my own values and morals is how I reason through all social and political issues and how I found room to accept the addition of GCS in the student insurance plan. 

Despite whatever affiliations you identify with, I urge you to reflect upon personal philosophy in the face of controversial issues, as opposed to blindly following the conventions of these affiliations. 

Stephanie is a sophomore in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @syoussef22.