Survey reveals confusion on resources for pregnant college students

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – According to a survey commissioned by Feminists for Life of America, U.S. college campuses frequently lack the resources for pregnant or parenting students or, if they have them, students are not always aware of their availability.

The survey, “Perception Is Reality,” stemmed from the pregnancy resource forums conducted by Feminists for Life, based in Alexandria, over the past 11 years.

Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life, moderated the first of these forums at Georgetown University in Washington in 1997 in order to evaluate resources on and off the campus.

“This survey confirms everything I have been told during the last decade,” said Ms. Foster. “Even when students who are not feeling the pressure of an unplanned pregnancy try to look for resources, either they can’t find them or the resources are inadequate or expensive.”

“Perception is reality,” she added, noting that a “perceived lack of resources” can drive pregnant women to have an abortion or drop out of college.

The survey released April 23 drew participants from 117 of the 400 colleges and universities nationwide with pro-life student groups. Fifty-eight percent of the schools surveyed were state schools, with an equal representation (21 percent each) of private and religious colleges.

Although some campuses offer information on pregnancy resources through posters and brochures, many of the survey respondents said they had not seen these materials. According to the study, some colleges and universities have gone a step beyond providing resources and are creating a supportive academic environment for pregnant and parenting students through flexible class scheduling.

Cayce Utley, national program director for Feminists for Life, said students’ lack of awareness of child care options, financial aid or health care availability reveals that colleges need to designate or establish a central office or staff person to guide pregnant and parenting students to the resources they need.

The pregnancy resource forums that led to this study were inspired by a board member of Feminists for Life who recounted her experience of facing an unplanned pregnancy while in college.

“Without housing, day care and maternity coverage, it doesn’t feel like you have much of a free choice,” she told other board members in 1996.

Actress Patricia Heaton, the honorary chairwoman of Feminists for Life, praised the group’s focus on college campuses and its willingness to “work with people on both sides of the abortion debate.”

“It is my hope that the results of this study will encourage more people to take up this mission and move it forward,” she said in a statement.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.