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The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Op-ed: Pregnant students deserve GW’s support

Does the freedom to “choose” at GW include giving birth?

Megan Clancy is a junior majoring in philosophy.

“My body, my choice” is the rallying cry of abortion advocates who argue that greater abortion access is necessary to uphold the right to privacy, autonomy and the freedom to make appropriate health decisions. But does that freedom extend to the choice of giving birth or just abortion?

This issue is particularly relevant on college campuses. Pregnant students have a myriad of options at their disposal — terminating their pregnancy is only one of them. But it seems to be a foregone conclusion at GW that the student will choose to do so. This should not be the case. Students deserve to have all their options acknowledged and provided for. Otherwise, they just have the illusion of choice.

GW’s policies and its broader campus culture support the assumption that students will inevitably choose abortion. As an institution, GW provides the bare minimum for pregnant and parenting students: accommodations through the Title IX Office and D.C.-mandated lactation rooms. A student can receive a pregnancy test from the Student Health Center, and from there the only next step is a referral for “pregnancy care or termination.”

This lack of forthright support for pregnant and parenting students is coupled with the widespread provision of contraceptives. The SHC advertises an encyclopedic list of contraceptives available to students, and the Student Association now subsidizes several 24/7 Plan B vending machines on campus. Collectively, these policies and provisions stigmatize pregnancy in a way that communicates that students should avoid it at all costs.

Our campus culture exacerbates this by celebrating abortion under the guise of “choice.” The Plan B vending machines were secured in part through appeals to the student body. Students have written articles outlining the need for greater abortion access and providing resources to secure that access. Student leaders from a wide range of GW clubs and organizations mobilized to protest the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, and many petitioned GW to remove Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas from the faculty because of his opinion in the case. Just look around campus and you will see dozens of posters proclaiming, “We love abortion providers and patients.”

But this celebration of abortion and cry for ever-increased access to it are not matched by appeals for GW to provide for students who may want to consider options besides abortion. Policies and rhetoric that are pro-abortion and anti-pregnancy combine to discourage students from becoming parents and communicate to newly pregnant students that abortion is their only real option. They also exclude prospective students who are already parents, whether a younger undergraduate student or someone coming back to school after starting a family.

GW’s shortcomings are further illuminated in comparison to other universities, like Georgetown University, which is publicly committed to “creating an accessible and inclusive environment for pregnant and parenting students.” In addition to the baseline Title IX accommodations, Georgetown provides practical help for students who are or think they may be pregnant.

Notably, Georgetown has a staff member whose specific role is to support these students and connect them with resources, including a childcare center on campus. Georgetown’s commitment to helping student parents complete their education filters through to their student body — a student group on campus works to provide free babysitting services and baby care supplies.

These vital measures create a culture of support for current and potential student parents and make securing their degree while parenting a tangible reality. They also allow students with an unplanned pregnancy to freely consider options besides abortion, including parenting, adoption, guardianship or kinship care. Whether that student decides to personally parent the child or defer to another parenting option, each student needs real support both during and after pregnancy.

If GW does not publicly acknowledge and substantially provide for those many options, then the decisions to have or raise a child are not truly viable. These students deserve a University that has made a place for them and is ready to support them during the entirety of their time at GW. A culture of support, comprehensive policies and practical resources would truly give students the freedom to choose — not a false dichotomy of choosing between their education and their child.

Inadequate support for student parents is also a barrier to GW’s goals of equity and accessibility. Without help from their University, student parents must try to balance classes, work and childcare on their own, often causing them to drop out. This trend disproportionately affects students of color, who are significantly more likely to be unable to complete their degrees due to parenting obligations and have higher rates of student debt. Failing to provide for current and potential student parents means GW’s mission of equity goes unfulfilled.

Any student who receives a positive pregnancy test deserves to know that GW is ready to provide support no matter what decision they make. In the absence of comprehensive policies and the unequivocal communication of love and support to pregnant students, abortion remains the only choice that is viable.

Our campus’ commitment to freedom of choice must extend to every choice, not just the termination of pregnancy. If not, there really is no choice at all.

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