When a Feminists for Life representative visits a college campus, the first question she asks students is if they know anyone on campus has gotten pregnant. Most students do. She then asks if the students ever see visibly pregnant women walking around campus. Very few, if any, have. Have you? When you think about your experiences on college campuses across the U.S. through visits, post-secondary classes, and sporting events, how often do you see pregnant students?
Women who get pregnant in college generally must choose between dropping out of school or having an abortion. I probably don’t need to tell you that if they drop out of school, they are far less likely to return later. I probably don’t need to tell you that if they don’t go back to school, their options for supporting that child will be narrow. And I probably don’t need to tell you that in the face of this choice, many women feel coerced: without child care, proper housing, maternity benefits, funds and support, what choice does she really have? If she leaves school, she’ll let everyone down and she’ll be even less likely to be able to provide for herself or for a child.
The health center at a university in the north east portion of the U.S. and a pregnancy center near that university provided the following information to Feminists for Life, an organization which advocates for women through offering them alternatives to abortion: in one year, 600 of the 3,000 women who attend that university took pregnancy tests. 300 of those tests were positive. Only 6 women had babies.
According to supporters of abortion, women choose abortion primarily for two reasons, lack of financial resources and lack of support.
What about Cedarville? Is it possible that students who find themselves pregnant at Cedarville University have even fewer options and even more to lose than students on other campuses?
I’ll grant that there are at least three key differences between Cedarville University and most other colleges and universities. First, most colleges and universities do not encourage or require students to be abstinent, and many, if not most, students at those colleges and universities do not feel any moral obligation to be abstinent. As a result, the number of students who choose to have sex while attending Cedarville is a lot smaller.
Second, Cedarville’s university culture and leadership opposes abortion. In contrast, based upon studies conducted by the Catholic World Report in 1997, Feminists for Life argues that university campuses are generally so overwhelmingly pro-choice that a large number of students enter them pro-life and leave pro-choice. Additionally, women who discover that they are pregnant at university health clinics are often encouraged by the staff to get an abortion. Clearly, this would not happen at Cedarville.
And third, Feminists for Life has found that most colleges and universities actually do have resources for pregnant and parenting students. Those resources are simply not as well-advertised. Feminists for Life, then, works to make those resources more well known and to encourage the staff of university health clinics to show women they have other options. If Feminists for Life came to Cedarville’s campus, would they find any unadvertised resources for pregnant and parenting students? I find that unlikely, not because they are unadvertised, but because of Cedarville’s hard-line stance on sexual purity and policy of punishing sexually active students.
So, yes, far fewer students at Cedarville find themselves pregnant than at a lot of other schools. And a Cedarville student who finds herself in this situation would likely feel a strong moral obligation to carry the child. But let me remind you: women do not want to have abortions. Not at Cedarville, not elsewhere. Most women who choose abortion do so out of desperation.
So, let me ask again. Is it even possible that Cedarville’s policies that are intended to promote sexual purity give students who break those rules and get pregnant fewer options and more incentive to have an abortion (especially when that hard-lined stances makes it less likely for women to be informed about contraceptives and pregnancy)? When faced with an overwhelming choice made all the more overwhelming by social stigma and possible expulsion from school, do compassionate, life-loving women feel coerced into “covering their sin?”And if this is a possible (I say, likely) outcome, is it time to question those policies? Or, in our hierarchy of values, have we determined that encouraging ‘sexual purity’ is more important than supporting life?