Pro-lifers battle abortion expansion on college campuses
Pregnant students have more options than they realize
Legacy Pregnancy Center in Sheridan, Wyo., sits less than two miles from a local community college. Advancement director Crystal Merriam said they want women to know they can still pursue their educational goals when pregnant or parenting. “It didn’t seem like those stories were really being told,” Merriam said.
The center started offering an adopt-a-college student program for clients a few years ago. Students bring a course schedule or other proof of enrollment to the center, and sponsors donate $100 toward textbooks and give a mid-semester gift or care package. “It’s really not revolutionary,” Merriam said, noting that many sponsors give more than is asked. The center typically has two or three students in the program every year.
The need for pro-life outreach to college students is becoming more urgent as abortion providers and their supporters work to expand to college campuses. Massachusetts lawmakers are considering legislation that would require public universities to dispense abortion pills in campus health centers.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed similar legislation in 2019 after his predecessor vetoed an earlier attempt. California schools are not required to comply until 2023, so the financial and social effects on the state’s 33 public universities are still unknown. In 2019, New York also introduced a bill requiring abortion pill distribution on state campuses. A version of that bill is still in committee.
In June, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Health listened to testimony via Zoom about the proposed abortion pill requirement for college health centers. Supporters of the bill said that the distance between some universities and abortion centers places unnecessary burdens on students who often rely on public transportation.
But pro-lifers say college students dealing with unplanned pregnancies have more help available than they realize. Biochemistry major Kate Scott, 20, will be a junior this fall at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Scott looked for existing chapters of the pro-life organization Students for Life as she decided which university to attend. UMass Amherst didn’t have a chapter, so Scott founded one as a freshman. The club was officially approved during the 2020 fall semester.
Scott’s science background and personal experience support her conviction that an unborn child is a human being. She and her twin were born two months premature. “I knew that you didn’t have to be nine months gestation to be a human being,” she said. Her Students for Life chapter has 38 people on the email list, with 15-20 active members in the school of more than 20,000 students.
Scott said she thinks many students don’t know about the resources her school offers, such as financial aid (including a family grant), lactation rooms, postpartum stress support, student parenting programs, online learning, and childcare for toddlers and preschool-age children. Students for Life members volunteer at Bethlehem House, a pregnancy resource center about 15 miles from campus. They assemble monthly packages of clothes and toys to give to clients, and the center also provides help with diapers, car seats, and cribs.
Students for Life launched “Standing With You” in February, a rebranding of their program “Pregnant on Campus.” The “Standing With You” website is still being updated, but Kate Maloney, New England regional coordinator for Students for Life, said the organization hopes it will be a “one-stop shop” connecting women to local resources.
“The abortion industry fails to see the full potential of women,” Maloney said. “They sell them short all the time.”
For any woman, chemical abortion carries risks that are exacerbated by the lack of medical oversight. Maloney worries how the experience could affect the mental health of a college student who lives in a dorm room. Women are “told to flush and not to look,” she said, because a 10-week-old unborn baby will look human. Dr. Mark Rollo echoed her concern while testifying before the Massachusetts Public Health Committee over Zoom last month.
“What kind of a trauma is that for a young woman and her dormmates to witness?” he said. “It is, ladies and gentlemen, this bill that should be flushed.”
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