Elizabeth Cady Stanton Pregnant and Parenting Student Services Act

Brady Swenson

This bill is created from the belief that “pregnant college students should not have to make a choice between keeping their baby and staying in school.” The legislation, created by Feminists for Life, would establish “a the pilot program to will help interested, eligible institutions of higher education establish pregnancy and parenting student services offices that will operate independent of Federal funding no later than 5 years after the date of the enactment of this Act.” Read more...

This
bill is created from the belief that "pregnant college students should not have
to make a choice between keeping their baby and staying in school." The
legislation, created by Feminists for Life, would establish "a the pilot
program to will help interested, eligible institutions of higher education
establish pregnancy and parenting student services offices that will operate
independent of Federal funding no later than 5 years after the date of the
enactment of this Act."

 

The legislation would:

  • Grant
    funds to establish (or maintain) and operate a pregnant and parenting student
    services office, located on the campus of the eligible institution that carries
    out the following programs and activities:
  • Host
    an initial pregnancy and parenting resource forum to assess pregnancy and
    parenting resources, located on the campus or within the local community
  • Improve
    such resources for pregnant, parenting, and prospective parenting students and
  • Annually
    assesses the performance of the eligible institution and the office in meeting
    the needs of students enrolled in the eligible institution who are pregnant or
    are parents.

 

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The
House and Senate Versions of the Bill:

Editorial Human Rights

Pro-Choice and Pregnant? Yeah, It’s Really Real

Jodi Jacobson

In response to a recent profile of NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue, in which she recounted how anti-choice advocates couldn't handle her growing pregnant belly, we've created a new Tumblr to show off our pro-choice and pregnant, or pro-choice and parenting, selves. Join us!

This week, the Washington Post published a profile of NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue, which focused on what apparently is to many in the anti-choice movement a mystifying occurrence: Hogue, a leading abortion-rights advocate, is pregnant with twins. As Hogue recounted in the piece, the jaws of anti-choice advocates dropped open when she recently entered one meeting at 36 weeks pregnant. One advocate, referring to her belly, even asked: “Is that real?”

Yes. It’s really real.

The media and others often depict the pro-choice movement as having a political “agenda” equivalent though oppositional to that of the anti-choice movement, which seeks to eliminate access to abortion care, in all circumstances, as well as to contraception and other forms of reproductive health care, irrespective of the consequences for public health or women’s lives.

But what is the pro-choice “agenda?” Is it really just about ideology? And what is so surprising about being pro-choice and pregnant?

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Being pro-choice is fundamentally about parenting, because it means believing, as the international women’s rights movement has long stated, that every child should be a wanted child, and that, by extension, that every parent is a willing parent.

It means focusing on women and girls, first and foremost, as human beings with human rights. It means believing in reproductive justice for all persons, a concept that, while complex and multidimensional, is nonetheless succinctly described by Loretta Ross, a scholar, writer, and co-founder of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, as ensuring that every individual has the ability to:

  • Decide if and when to have a child and the conditions under which to give birth;
  • Decide not to have a baby and full access to options for preventing or ending a pregnancy;
  • Parent the children she or he already has with the necessary social supports in safe environments and healthy communities, and without fear of violence from individuals or the government.

Being pro-choice means advocating for the ability of people to parent when they are ready to do so, and the right of every child to receive love, attention, food, housing, health care, education, and other critical social supports, funding for many of which, by the way, legislators affiliated with the anti-choice movement are busy eliminating.

Being pro-choice is also a commitment to using science and evidence in the interest of social progress. Data show unequivocally that in countries or in communities (even in the United States) where people lack access to reproductive and maternal health care (including abortion care), there are higher rates of maternal death and illness, higher rates of infant and child mortality, higher rates of poverty, and lower rates of educational attainment. Access to abortion is therefore an economic, social, and health issue in every sense. If you read and understand medical and public health evidence without bias, you can not help but advocate for what that evidence tells you: access to abortion saves lives. Based on all the undeniable evidence, supporting all people in making decisions about whether and when to be pregnant and whether, when, and with whom to become a parent is the pro-life position in the fullest sense of the term.

It is perhaps because they know this intuitively and from lived experience that the majority of women who seek abortion care are already parenting children, and when they become pregnant make rational and sound choices about their ability to parent another child, not just for as long as it takes to get through the one package of diapers from the crisis pregnancy center, but for years on end. Sixty-one percent of women who have abortions already have at least one child.

I’ve had an abortion. I later had two children, now 16 and 18, when I was able to give them what they needed to grow into healthy and well-adjusted young adults. I am of course still parenting them.

Yet these facts notwithstanding, it seems “pro-choice and pregnant” don’t go together in the minds of those who oppose the right of women to make critical decisions about their lives and those of their families. One anti-choice advocate was overheard by my colleague Zoe Greenberg, who was attending a “pro-life” meeting in California, saying that “abortion terminates motherhood.” To the contrary, abortion confirms motherhood, and is part of the continuum of motherhood, fatherhood, and parenthood.

Still those mouths fall open. So we’ve decided to offer concrete evidence of the extent to which parenthood and abortion rights are tied together at a new Tumblr, called, Pregnant, Parenting, and Pro-Choice. We are pro-choice and pregnant, pro-choice and parents, pro-choice and grandparents, aunts, uncles, adoptive, step-, and foster parents. We are pro human rights for all people, and by default, pro-child, and pro-family. We are the majority, and it’s time for us all to step up and show it.

Share your pro-choice and pregnant and parenting photos and stories for the world to see.

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Commentary Family

Pregnant and Parenting Students Can—and Should—Enforce Their Title IX Rights

Natasha Vianna

Many young parents may not know this, but many of the experiences and educational hardships they are facing are actually illegal. One major way teens can help empower themselves is by asserting their federal rights.

After enrolling at a new public high school during my senior year, I quickly realized how difficult it would be to succeed as a pregnant 17-year-old student. I had assumed that my peers would be the ones isolating me or making me feel like an outsider, so I was shocked when my teachers became my bullies. I did not want to stay in school when the people who were meant to educate and guide me were often the same ones judging and shaming me. Thanks to the work of a single dedicated social worker for teen parents in my school and her ability to advocate for my Title IX rights, I was able to graduate with my class. But not everyone will have such resources. And with that in mind, I feel it is vital to remind expectant and parenting students of their federal right to an education.

A 2006 report by the Gates Foundation found that 26 percent of youth who drop out of school in the United States said that becoming a parent was a major factor in their decision. However, many pregnant and parenting teens also reported in that same Gates report that they felt more motivated to stay in school after becoming pregnant or parents, and would have stayed if their schools provided equitable access to the necessary support. For some students, that support looks like scheduling accommodations or access to in-home tutoring. For others, support simply looks like being able to learn in a discrimination- and harassment-free environment.

Such an environment certainly wasn’t accessible for me. Looking back at my first week of school, I remember a moment where I looked at my senior year schedule to see that I was pulled out of all my honors classes. When I asked my guidance counselor why, she told me that girls like me—in other words, pregnant girls—couldn’t handle the workload. When I walked into classrooms, teachers would pull their glasses to the tips of their noses and glare at me while I tried to maneuver my protruding belly behind a small desk. During my last trimester, my legs were swollen and my belly was heavy, so it would often take me more than the allotted four minutes to go from a first-floor classroom to my next class on the fourth floor, on the other side of the building. One teacher made it a point to give me detention every time I was late and to remind me, in front of my class, that my pregnancy was a choice.

A few weeks before my due date and maternity leave, I made the second trip of the year to my guidance counselor’s office to ask for help with picking and applying for colleges. Barely making eye contact, she regurgitated the common stereotype: “Girls who get pregnant in high school struggle to finish high school and rarely go to college.” She pointed me to a stack of brochures from local community colleges and went back to typing on her computer. Given that the odds were apparently stacked against me, I began to wonder if it was worth trying anymore or if I should just drop out and not deal with the stress. Every day, I would ask myself whether I would bother coming back the next day.

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These factors exacerbated the effects of the trauma I had undergone earlier in life. Before my pregnancy, I had experienced abuse, witnessed violence, and coped with depression. School had always been my escape from the real world and a place where I could focus on my own growth. But my pregnancy changed that: It granted my instructors the opportunity to project their own judgment and unconscious biases upon me.

And I wasn’t unique. Many young parents across the country have experienced adversities and are in need of empathetic support systems in their educational experiences. A recent report by the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy revealed that 30 percent of expectant and parenting teens experienced homelessness over the course of the one-year survey; 46 percent of the teen parent population had been physically or emotionally abused or neglected by their caregivers; and 18 percent of teen parents had experienced sexual abuse. Yet we know that with empathy and equitable access to resources, teen parents are capable of overcoming these obstacles and succeeding in a variety of spheres, including academically.

One major way teens can help empower themselves is by asserting their federal rights. Many young parents may not know this, but many of the experiences and educational hardships they are facing are actually illegal. The National Women’s Law Center has compiled a clear list of expectant and parenting students’ rights as outlined in the federal law Title IX, which forbids gender discrimination in schools. Within Title IX, expectant and parenting students have the right to excused absences for pregnancy-related issues, reasonable time to make up work missed from excused absences, and maternity leave. If their schools provide temporarily disabled students with at-home tutoring, expectant and parenting students are also legally entitled to the same.

Students cannot be kicked out of school for being pregnant or parenting and do not need to bring in medical notes to continue their education or continue participating in extracurricular activities. Additionally, parenting students have the right to privacy, and no school official can share their pregnancy information with anyone without full consent. And regardless of parenting status, students have the right to continue their learning without being shamed. As Title IX clarifies, harassment because of pregnancy is a form of sex discrimination and a violation of the federal law.

With this in mind, young parents can and should demand transparency about their Title IX rights in school—and, in turn, to ask for a clear policy in their district that enforces those rights. In my case, a policy clarifying how teachers were allowed to engage with students and mandating training for all people working with young parents could have made my high school experience much more bearable. My social worker knew the complex issues around teen pregnancy and didn’t reduce my identity and life to my pregnancy; she was also well-informed on how to challenge or report instances of Title IX violations. But these weren’t guaranteed for other parenting students without a social worker. So ensuring a policy that includes language on why breastfeeding is a valid reason to be in the nurse’s office twice a day, or one that explicitly reinforced a young father’s involvement by excusing absences during the mother or baby’s medical appointments, maternity leave, or when babies are sick, could have helped students in the future.

Additionally, my educators, nurses, and guidance counselors would have benefited from learning how to be genuine support systems for young parents. Adults can sometimes unconsciously project judgment onto young parents or make stigmatizing comments that reduce them to statistics. Those little moments can have a deep and serious impact on a young person’s self-determination. Recently, a group of seven young moms formed a campaign, #NoTeenShame, to help push new frameworks that elevate strength-based language. Administrators should take cues from efforts like these, which amplify the voices of lived experiences.

Implementing policies that encompass these practices would ensure that the needs of young people are being met, allowing them to move toward their own dreams and goals. And district officials themselves have cause to cooperate; Title IX is mandatory, and violating these rights can cause a school to lose its federal funding.

We see a stark number of young people leaving school despite being motivated to stay because of the school’s lack of sensitivity. For young parents across the country, there are a few things we can do to protect our peers and ourselves:

  1. Find your district’s Title IX coordinator and share that person’s contact information with your peers and school support system.
  2. Urge your school administrators to create or update a policy for expectant and parenting students with the Title IX toolkit from the National Women’s Law Center.
  3. Know your rights and share them widely by discussing them on social media, posting flyers on your schools’ community boards, and asking your school to post them in highly visible locations.

As a former teen mom, I know the journey to implementing a district-wide policy seems overwhelming and that challenging an entire school system feels impossible. But young parents fighting for—and making—change could benefit the educational system.