"How can a scared, pregnant student, one probably racked with anxiety and facing a totally unplanned situation, find the resources and support she needs to parent her child and continue her education?"
Kristan Hawkins both asks and answers the question. She's the energetic young president of Students for Life of America. In her mind, abortion needs to be unthinkable. How does such a paradigm shift happen in a country where abortion has been legal for more than four decades?
Her group has just launched a "Pregnant on Campus" initiative. The goal is to connect pregnant students with resources and support to help them get through school while being true parents to their children.
From her near-decade's work with college students, Hawkins knows that there are existing resources on many campuses, but the students who need to know about them often don't. "By educating pregnant students and those who care about them ... about the many resources they can use, a huge burden can be lifted from their shoulders," Hawkins explains. "They can start to prepare for the future and finish their education."
Pregnant on Campus groups will hold baby showers and diaper drives for expectant mothers on their campuses. They volunteer at local pregnancy help centers and help usher pregnant women through paperwork and bureaucracy.
A young woman "should never have to choose between her education and her child," Hawkins tells me. But that's absolutely the predominant message a pregnant college student hears. "Often, the message she sees is 'have an abortion or drop out of school.'" It's a false choice. "For her and her child's future and well-being, our goal should be to make sure she graduates school," Hawkins says, adding that "a child born into poverty is seven times more likely to live in poverty his or her whole life."
And so on 838 campuses across the country, Students for Life is prepared to activate a network of support for students in need, "to help her navigate the resources available at her college, help her find appropriate housing and financial aid, give her the emotional support she needs and help her through a possible difficult time."
That doesn't mean anyone is sugarcoating anything. "It will certainly be a challenging journey," Beth Rahal, Students for Life's Pregnant on Campus coordinator tells me.
Like any woman who finds herself unexpectedly with child, a pregnant college student must be "embraced with compassion," Rahal says.
If you're pregnant on campus, know that life is a choice and that staying in school and providing for your new family is an option.
If people see going to college and raising a child is doable, life happens and death ceases. No young woman should have to choose to deny her motherhood, deny her child life. She doesn't have to. She needs to see this. This is true both on and off campus.
Kathryn Jean Lopez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.