Recently, I had the opportunity to attend an
historic event: a press conference at which people with very different views
about abortion worked together rather than against each other. The occasion was the introduction of the
Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion and
Supporting Parents Act authored by two bold leaders, Representatives Rosa
DeLauro (D-CT) and Tim Ryan (D-OH) – one pro-choice and one pro-life. As Amy
Sullivan of TIME put it, "The volume in the
abortion debate has been stuck at rancorous screaming for so long that when it
gets turned down, it’s disorienting, like walking outside after a rock concert
and trying to hear again."
As an organization dedicated to reducing teen and unplanned
pregnancy, and with respect for deeply-held views about difficult issues, the National
Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy applauds this bill as a
comprehensive, balanced approach to reduce the need for abortion by both
helping to prevent unplanned pregnancy in the first place and supporting women
and families once pregnancy occurs.
There are many important provisions in the bill that have
real potential to reduce the 3 million unplanned pregnancies in America each
year. To read more, see the helpful summary
by Third Way, who played a key role in developing the bill and enlisting an
impressive and diverse
list of supporters.
One exciting provision
that hasn’t gotten much attention yet would help community
colleges address unplanned pregnancy. The bill would authorize $15
million a year for community colleges to develop and test innovative
approaches to prevent unplanned pregnancy and promote healthy
relationships among their students. Since this is pioneering work,
there would be a robust evaluation component. Why community
colleges? Well, most unplanned pregnancies occur among older teens and
young adults. If we want to reach this population, it makes sense to
turn to community colleges, who serve 11.5 million students – nearly
one half of undergraduates in this country. Many
of them are at risk for unplanned pregnancy and many are already single
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President Obama and community colleges across the nation are
committed to improving student retention and success – a cause
eloquently described by David Brooks. Data, community college leaders, and students themselves
tell us that an unplanned pregnancy and parenting responsibilities make
it much harder to complete their educational and career goals. Consider this:
61% of community college students who have children after enrolling
don’t finish their education, which is 65% higher than the rate for
those who didn’t have children.
Bottom line: increased investment in and attention to reducing
unplanned pregnancy among community college students is a win-win. This
will help reduce unplanned pregnancy and in turn the need for abortion,
and improve student success – both high priorities for the Obama
Administration - and will strengthen America’s families,
communities, and economy.