John McCormack: GW fails pregnant and parenting students

What would you do if GW kicked disabled students out of on-campus housing because they require wheelchairs or Seeing Eye dogs to move around? Shock and outrage would fill the pages of The Hatchet and students would likely erect barricades around Rice Hall, perhaps leading chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, disabled kids don’t have to go!”

Yet, current GW policy does not allow students to live with their children in on-campus housing. Essentially, GW tells students facing unplanned pregnancies: “If you want to keep your child and continue your education, then toughen up, toots, and find your own place.”

Obviously, some parenting students might choose to take a semester off or to live off-campus. But it is hardly compassionate to force women to face the difficulties of finding nearby housing and new roommates, as well as signing a 12-month lease because her crying child might inconvenience others. Do Seeing-Eye dogs not bark? Do we value dogs more than children?

Last Monday marked the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that (along with a lesser-known companion case Doe v. Bolton) effectively created a national regime of legalized abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy. Since that day, a pitched battle has divided this country’s politics and culture. While it is critical to debate principles such as whether unborn and born human beings share the inalienable right to life, students who call themselves “pro-life” and “pro-choice” should work together to provide women in crisis pregnancies with practical alternatives to abortion.

Most people can now agree that abortion is not good for women. Even Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) has said that abortion is a “sad, even tragic choice.” A New York Times article about crisis pregnancy centers tells the story of one woman named Mendy Mason who had an abortion earlier in life and now says, “You can’t rip a baby from a woman’s womb without ripping out her heart.” No one should have to experience such pain.

The same compassion that drives pro-lifers to seek legal protection for the lives of unborn children should lead them to support the lives of mothers during and following pregnancy. Pro-choice activists on campus should work to provide women with more of a choice than a bucket of condoms and the phone number of the nearest Planned Parenthood.

Resources such as on-campus housing and information about policies pertaining to pregnant and parenting students regarding academics, financial aid, the responsibility of fathers and taking leaves of absence will help women choose options like motherhood and adoption. Part of the problem at GW is that such information is not clearly published, as a simple Google search will show.

Providing resources and enacting better policies, however, do not alone alleviate pressure to abort. Providing material resources must be accompanied by a change of attitude that supports life and fights the stigma against pregnancy – a stigma created by some professors, students and irresponsible boyfriends who lead women to believe that motherhood or adoption will destroy their careers and relationships.

It’s important to remember that when talking about changing GW that “GW” is not just a bunch of administrators. It’s all of us. Positive change doesn’t begin with bureaucrats in Rice Hall or the Student Association. It begins when students work together and volunteer their time and efforts to solve problems.

Those who want to create a better campus should spend time thinking about how they can help. On April 13, Colonials for Life will host a pregnancy resources forum for any students – pro-life or pro-choice – who want to create a campus that respects the dignity of women and children. Hopefully, it will be a step in the right direction.

-The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs and history, is a Hatchet columnist.

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