Taking the Test

Credit: Fox 5 DC

Credit: Fox 5 DC

On Thursday, November 12th, Tommitrise was getting ready to welcome her baby girl into this world, but even as she prepared for labor, she couldn’t quite sit back and “enjoy” labor. She still had a college psychology test to take!

“It took me 4-5 hours after the opening of the test to try to put the pain to the side and do it so I wouldn’t have to do it later and I could enjoy my newborn.”  About an hour and 30 minutes, Tommitrise finished the two-hour exam and received a B! The Middle Georgia State University student boasts a 3.6 GPA, and she will be graduating with a  bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice next December.

Capturing the moment and sharing it with the world, her sister, Shanell, posted on Facebook: “This is what you call ‘Strong Priorities’. Contractions 3 minutes apart and still takes her Psychology Test! You are going to be a great mom baby sis!”

At 9:19pm, Tommitrise welcomed her baby girl, Tyler Elise.

“She is my life now, and the way I look at it is she will always have me to depend on so my goals will not be put on hold. I don’t want to just barely make it by. I want my child to live comfortably, and I want to show people that just because I am considered a young mother doesn’t mean I have to be considered a bad mother.”

What about students’ rights?

Tommitrise’s story is awesome, impressive, and bold! She should most certainly be applauded for her strength and commitment. At the same time, her story should cause us to pause and wonder why a woman about to meet her newborn feels pressured to complete an exam rather than focus on labor.

All federally funded schools are required to abide by Title IX rules (which protect pregnant and parenting students from discrimination and unfair classroom policies). However, it seems that our schools have failed to educate staff and to inform students of what accommodations are appropriate in these cases. In our work assisting students through our Pregnant on Campus Initiative, I have encountered a widespread confusion among both university staff and students regarding the rights of pregnant and parenting students. Common questions that we have encountered include:

  • Can I be excused for labor and recovery?
  • I’m in a high risk pregnancy. What happens if I need to miss class?
  • Can I keep my scholarship?
  • Do I have to quit my sport’s team?
  • My school is encouraging me to drop out. What do I do?

When I read Tommitrise’s story, I’m inspired but also troubled. I see two possible violations of Title IX:

  • If a student misses class due to pregnancy, childbirth, or other related conditions, the school must allow the student to make up the missed work and provide the appropriate information to complete assignments.
  • If a doctor has provided a note deeming a student’s pregnancy-related absence as medically necessary (such as in the cases of bed rest, childbirth, or recovery), that student cannot be punished for missing class or another school activity (e.g. lose points for class attendance) regardless of the school’s or professor’s classroom absence (or attendance) policies.

making our own choices

Tommitrise very well may have addressed these issues and instead opted to complete the exam. (Note: Her aforementioned quote about not wanting to do it later and wanting to enjoy her newborn.) However, I hope that other women do not feel pressured to do the same. Students should be allowed a reasonable period to make up that exam rather than feel forced to answer questions between contractions.

Pregnant students need to be encouraged in their educational pursuits, but also protected from putting their health or the health of their child at risk. As student advocates, we need to continue to educate our campuses about these rights and to encourage pregnant and parenting students to openly discuss their concerns and needs with their professors.

 

This post was contributed by Beth Rahal, Pregnant on Campus Coordinator. If you have questions regarding your Title IX rights, please see our “Students’ Rights” page, or contact Beth Rahal with your specific case.

 

 

Moving beyond first steps

Jane Riccardi- SFLA New EnglandSometimes being a pro-life activist means getting a call from a pregnant girl while you’re at Stop & Shop at 7pm buying a toothbrush. Yep, that actually happened. A lady I met at 40 Days for Life was outside the Planned Parenthood in Boston, and had struck up a conversation with this young girl who had started to reconsider her abortion. For some reason, this kindly lady was drawing a blank on what to say to this young woman, and so she called my cell in the hopes that I could speak to her. Now, while the extenuating factors of the situation seemed bizarre enough comprise the setting of a Flannery O’Connor story, in that moment I felt anything but literary. I was not a composed character in a short story with a predetermined script of helpful phrases to utter, and the realization and weight of my own unpreparedness made me feel sick. A hundred scenarios of how I was going to mess this up flashed through my mind in the microseconds before I said “hello.” I honestly don’t remember a lot of the conversation, but what saved me was finding out that she was a student at Boston University. All I could think was, “Thank God! BU has a Pregnant on Campus group.

Pregnant on Campus – ever heard of it? An initiative of Students for Life of America, PonC offers students a comprehensive database of local pregnancy resources, and it provides students with the training and resources they need to be able to reach out to their peers who are facing unplanned pregnancies. How amazing is the thought that a pregnant student can turn to her peers for help, support, and real resources, instead of thinking that Planned Parenthood is her only option? Pretty awesome, right?

In that moment when I talked to that girl, I realized how insanely important it to be able to back up our words with actions. Encouragement, love, and verbal support are really important first steps. In those moments of confusion and fear, an overflow of love is often what is needed to mollify the emotional intensity of the moment. But, these things are only valuable because they’re first steps. They are rich and hopeful words when they’re followed up with, “Here, let me show you exactly where you can go for real help. I know a group of students at your own school who would be so happy to help you through your pregnancy, and show you how to connect with all of the local pregnancy support centers.” Without providing tangible resources, promises of hope and support ring empty. I know that there are thousands of awesome pregnancy resource centers all over the country, and they certainly do amazing things to help women. But to a young mom, especially one who’s still in college, even reaching out to one of these helpful organizations can be huge and difficult step. That’s why Pregnant on Campus groups are so integral; we need students who live on the same campus reach out and offer support to their peers. They know how difficult being a student can be. They understand the dynamics of their own particular school.

Getting involved with the Pregnant on Campus Initiative is probably the most direct way to impact your campus culture with a positive message of love and support for young moms.
Explore our website, and learn more about this amazing initiative. Our team of expert mentors are prepared to assist you and your group as you embrace our commitment to supporting pregnant and parenting students.

 

Jane is the Regional Coordinator of New England, serving schools in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.  If you are in the New England area and are interested in resources to start a pro-life group, or leadership training for your current one, contact Jane at jriccardi@studentsforlife.org

3 Ways to Support Your Friend

VPonC- You are not alone- Young Woman in Fieldery few women plan to get pregnant while in college. Typically, college pregnancy comes as a surprise, even to those who are willingly in a sexually active relationship. No matter what her situation may be, the unexpected pressure and challenges of this pregnancy may lead her to feel panicked, scared, and alone. She may feel pressured into choosing abortion because she doesn’t see any other option or know of the many resources available to her.

Unfortunately, nearly half of the abortions in the United States are obtained by college-aged women. (That’s around 440,000 women!) How can we change this outcome? How can we respond in a way that provides hope, help, and support to our friends? How can we take away her fears and provide resources that address her unique needs?

1. Be her friend.

What she may need more than anything else is your friendship! She may or may not have the support of her family or the baby’s father, but you can step up and provide emotional and encouragement. Listen to her. Let her share her story, her frustrations, her fears. Check in with her regularly, and take the time to do “normal” things together (like lunch or a movie night). You don’t always have to talk about the baby– simply be there.

2. Direct her to campus and local resources.

Help her find campus and local resources, like pregnancy resource centers or federally qualified health centers. Pregnancy resource centers offer free and confidential services like pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, pregnancy and parenting counseling, and even material aid. Federally qualified health centers offer low cost healthcare regardless of one’s ability to pay. If your group has created a resource guide, give her a copy, and talk to her about support on campus.

3. Go the extra mile.

Offer to drive her to appointments, or ask if she needs someone to be with her at her ultrasound. Ask her if she would be okay if your student group hosts a baby shower to celebrate her, or if she needs anything (like diapers, maternity clothes). If she’s having problems with professors, teach her about her student rights as a pregnant student, or offer to connect her with the Title IX Coordinator.

You can do this!

Don’t be afraid to respond to a friend in need! You don’t have to have all the answers right away. Be there for her, and the rest will fall into place. If you have a friend who is pregnant and needs support, don’t hesitate to contact our SFLA Team or our Pregnant on Campus Coordinator. We’ll help you find resources and support for your friend.

 

Reaching the Greeks

Cisco- Genevieve- Anja

Pro-Life Student Leaders: Genevieve (Bama), Cisco (LSU), Anja (Mississippi State)

The Pregnant on Campus Initiative is aimed to support all types of pregnant and parenting students. We want to help every pregnant and parenting student have support as they enter parenthood and continue their education. With that in mind, student groups need to find new ways to reach groups that they may not typically interact with.

Greek Life is a popular involvement for many students in the Southeastern Conference (SEC), as well as at universities across the country. We asked 3 college pro-life student leaders about their efforts to reach members of Greek Life with the Pregnant on Campus Initiative.

What types of projects or outreach have you used to engage Greek Life?

Genevieve: Our plan is to get Greek organizations involved with outreach programs (like diaper drives, etc.), as well as to provide resources to sororities on campus… We have a Greek Affairs committee, the purpose of which is to create connections with sororities. We are basically recruiting people with sorority affiliations, who are willing to talk to their leadership and be our liaison since so much in the Greek world is about who you know! We have also applied to make things worth Panhellenic points, which is a good way to increase Greek involvement. For example, we were able to get Panhellenic points awarded to people who donated to our diaper drive!

Cisco: We are so early into it right now. Emails are being sent to the presidents and Vice Presidents. Our goal this semester is to go and talk at all sororities and fraternities. This semester, we also want to host a Greek-wide diaper drive to donate to local crisis pregnancy centers. We are hoping that we can get Chick-fil-A on board to see if they would donate (or discount) a prize for the sorority that raises the most.

Anja- Speaking to Christian Frat

Anja speaking to Christian fraternity men.

Anja: Our group has started with Christian Greek Life. Last year, we spoke to a Christian sorority and that recruited a member! This semester, we visited the Christian frat, and several guys have remembered me around campus. I changed my presentation to fit guys more. Basically, now about 200 more people on campus know about the pregnancy resource center (PRC) here and our PonC resources guide (which I left with the presidents). As a result, people recognize us and stop at our table and sort of have us in their minds. Hopefully, this will lead to recommendations to us and the PRC. I’m visiting the college Catholic Association as their featured speaker. It’s not Greek, but kind of acts similar to a frat/sorority in a lot of ways. We’ve also visited College Republicans and plan to revisit the Christian sorority as well as this Christian Agriculture club. I also made friends with the community service chair of one sorority.

Why do you think Greek Life involvement is beneficial to the Pregnant on Campus Initiative?

Genevieve: This is where so many of the women on campus are; so it just makes sense to reach out here.

Anja: In the South, Greek Life accounts for over half of most big pubic schools population. When people get pregnant, they turn to close friends, church leaders, and club friends. Greek Life is a very close community. If someone gets pregnant or their girlfriend gets pregnant, I imagine the people who they would turn to first would be their “big,” “grandbig,” “sister,” twin,” or “brother.” They are literally called family. We want these trusted people to have answers for their family. Where can they go? How can they privately take a pregnancy test? How could we get help? It may be something in the back of their minds now, but if/when the situation arises, they won’t be completely stuck with no information.

How do you hope this relationship will grow?

Anja: I hope that the Greek community takes unplanned pregnancy into serious consideration. Sometimes our culture might confuse preparing for unplanned pregnancy as the same thing as promoting it. We want Greek life to maintain their standards, creeds, and mission statements while also preparing for a loving approach to the unexpected.

Genevieve: We want to help make sororities more open and knowledgeable about pregnancy and parenting resources available. In the future, we hope to continue to be able to partner with Greek organizations for even more education and outreach programs. We also hope that Greek organizations will become completely open to pregnant women and will become a place truly dedicated to supporting and embracing them.

Any special Greek Life projects in the making (that you can share)?!

Anja: I would love for this sorority looking for a community project to serve a pregnancy resource center (PRC) or adoption center and in the process become more educated on resources available in the community. If our group can work along side them, everyone in the sorority will become aware of our resources.

Cisco: Our hope is to get active in the Greek community by starting a program called Greeks for Life. It is our way of educating the Greek about the sanctity of life and maybe even doing a clothing drive eventually and things like that to benefit our twist on the Pregnant on Campus Initiative.

 

We thank these bold leaders for uniting their community to support pregnant and parenting students! If your group needs ideas or tips for engaging new groups on campus, please reach out to our team, or contact our Pregnant on Campus Coordinator.