- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2001

Some say college is the best four years of one's life.
That is, unless you happen to be one of the approximately 84,000 college women who becomes pregnant.
"Most schools have not dealt with the idea that students are going to be pregnant or parenting," said Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life, whose organization has outreach contacts on about 100 campuses. It is campaigning to heighten awareness about options for women with unwanted pregnancies other than abortion.
"We've got to stop treating women like they become stupid when they get pregnant," Miss Foster says.
Many young women decide not to become a parent so early in life. One out of every five abortions is performed on a college woman, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood. The result is that 16,800 abortions are performed annually on women in higher education.
But what about the women who wish to keep their children, especially students at universities with a religious orientation? Georgetown University, a Roman Catholic institution, operates one of the most comprehensive pregnancy programs in the country, which provides students with counseling.
"It's consistent with the Catholic tradition of taking care of the whole person," said Carol Day, director of Georgetown University's Health Education Services. "Pregnancy can be seen as a crisis. People tend not to think comprehensively about this. We don't really think this is a good time to be on your own."
Georgetown's Pregnancy Services program started eight years ago as a way to help pregnant students remain on campus. It connects pregnant students with a doctor or nurse-midwife, providing them financial aid and academic advising on how to take fewer credit hours during the pregnancy. After delivery, students continue to attend classes toward the completion of a diploma.
The program has a 24-hour pager, and a phone number posted on stickers throughout the residence halls.
"The program is out there. The essential part is to stay well-connected," Mrs. Day says.
She recognizes that the university can do little to prevent a pregnancy, as "we realize not all students are Catholic and there are lots of risks."
Yet, the university tries to keep students informed about the risks and realities of sexual intercourse and pregnancy. Health programs for first-year students focus on sexually transmitted diseases and abstinence. There is also an annual pregnancy-resource forum sponsored by the campus right-to-life group.
Georgetown junior Elizabeth Brown, who helps organize the group, says the forum is a chance to dispel rumors.
"There are a lot of myths. Students believe you get kicked out of school if you get pregnant," she says.
A student is permitted to live in the residence halls until the baby is born, after which the mother and infant may move into a town house the school has designated for two student mothers. They can stay there for up to a year. Pregnancy Services will help students search for other housing as well.
In addition, the program can subsidize up to $75 a month for day care costs if the student mother requests it. Students, however, are frequently able to get help with child care from friends or nearby family members.
While the Pregnancy Services program targets student mothers, it also helps student fathers. Last year, Mrs. Day said, it paid the airfare for a student to be with his girlfriend for her delivery.
Yet the program's primary focus continues to be on pregnant students. One student, who asked to remain anonymous, says she was pregnant through her entire senior year. Pregnancy Services helped her find a doctor and paid for her childbirth classes while giving her the support and encouragement to finish her classes and graduate last May with a double major in language and linguistics.
"They really helped me out a lot," she said. "They had creative solutions to all my problems. I think it's really sad for girls who get pregnant, and girls do get pregnant. But I knew my school supported me."
Now the mother of a baby girl, she notes that without that same kind of support, many young women feel they must quit school to have their babies.
"I think it would be a real shame if [other schools] didn't have these programs," she said.
Even among Catholic schools, Georgetown's program is unique. Other colleges provide birth-control pills, pregnancy testing or referrals to abortion clinics, but pregnancy-support services are limited. Typically, schools will provide counseling and link pregnant students with obstetricians and may help with child care and housing after the baby is born. But it is all done through various offices, rather than one comprehensive program.
Two other Catholic schools, Notre Dame University in South Bend, Ind., and Catholic University in the District of Columbia, say they encourage pregnant students to stay on campus.
"Most of our kids don't even miss a semester," said Ann Thompson, director of University Health Services at Notre Dame, adding that many pregnant students transfer to a college near home. Many manage to complete their diplomas during the expected time frame and graduate on schedule with their class.
Terry Brady Novak, administrative director of student health at Catholic University, also says students are encouraged to remain in school while pregnant.
But Trinity College in the District, which is also Catholic, provides no help for pregnant students outside of an initial pregnancy test.
Other schools provide greater support, but that does not stop many students from choosing to have an abortion.
Paula Flamm, director of social services at the University of California at Berkeley, says the university makes available pregnancy testing and counseling, as well as infant child care and places to breast-feed on campus.
However, she notes, of the approximately 300 students she sees with positive pregnancy tests, only about one-third carry to term, and most of those are graduate students. Undergraduates, she adds, often see abortion as the only option.
"Many do not feel they are at a place in life to have a baby. They've got plans, and this just wasn't in the plan," Mrs. Flamm said.
Wilson College, a Presbyterian school in Chambersburg, Pa., and College Misericordia of Dallas, Pa., are both women's colleges that offer special programs for women with children and limited services for those who may be pregnant.
"You shouldn't have to leave because you are pregnant," said Mary Taylor, program director of Women with Children at Wilson College. "We help them find those resources that they need."
At College Misericordia, a Catholic school, the Women with Children program does not accept women with infants. Program director Nancy London says the school believes infants are not conducive to a rigorous study environment. Students wishing to participate must wait until their child is two years old.

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