(Note: This briefing occurred after the initial introduction of the bill. The re-introduction of the bill was in the House on 02/15/2007 as HR1088 and in the Senate as S.915 on 03/19/2007.)
First Capitol Hill Briefing on the Needs of Pregnant and Parenting Students
On Wednesday, February 15, 2006, the birthday of Susan B. Anthony, Feminists for Life President Serrin M. Foster moderated the first Capitol Hill briefing on the needs of pregnant and parenting students.
Feminists for Life has focused on the needs of pregnant and parenting students since a board member shared the story of her pregnancy while in graduate school. "She found there was no family housing, affordable child care or maternity coverage in the student health plan. She felt forced to drop out of school and face a lifetime of poverty or have an abortion, and miscarried under the stress. We knew we needed to be a catalyst for change," said Foster. Feminists for Life began hosting Pregnancy Resource Forums at top colleges across the country in 1997.
During the Hill briefing, Terri and John Dickinson and FFL's Senior Communications Specialist Sally Winn each described the array of challenges they faced while pregnant and parenting in college. "My school's extensive student handbooks and policies gave me very little guidance, and I had never even heard of another student having a baby and still graduating," said Terri Dickinson, who married John while the two were attending different colleges. "Administrators hadn't dealt with a pregnant or parenting student before." Winn agreed, saying that colleges need to think about the perspective of a pregnant woman. "One-piece desks aren't helpful when you are eight months pregnant," Winn commented. Julia Thornton shared her experience as birthmother in college.
Carol Day, Director of Health Education Services at Georgetown University, was a panelist on the first FFL Pregnancy Resource Forum in 1997. Day outlined the progressive program at Georgetown that has included annual forums and a central campus location for help. In 2005, Foster presented Day with Feminists for Life's Elizabeth Cady Stanton Award in recognition of the model program at Georgetown.
Inspired by Feminists for Life's Pregnancy Resource Forums, the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Pregnant and Parenting Student Services Act would establish a pilot program to provide $10 million for 200 grants to encourage institutions of higher education to establish and operate a pregnant and parenting student services office. The on-campus office would serve parenting students, prospective student parents who are pregnant or imminently anticipating an adoption, and students who are placing or have placed a child for adoption.
Congresswoman Melissa Hart, who introduced the bill into the House on November 9, 2005, made a special appearance at the briefing.
The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Pregnant and Parenting Student Services Act is named for the mother of the women's movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who was also the mother of seven children and an advocate for women's access to higher education. Together with her friend and collaborator Susan B. Anthony, Stanton was a revolutionary who consistently advocated for the rights of women, women's education, the celebration and acceptance of motherhood, and the protection of children.
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