Elizabeth Cady Stanton Pregnant and Parenting Student Services Act
U.S. House Briefing, February 15, 2006 - Susan B. Anthony's Birthday
Remarks of Julia Thornton
Thank you for this opportunity to share with you my experiences as a pregnant college student. I hope my story will underscore the urgent need for the resources the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Pregnant and Parenting Student Services Act would provide women who find themselves in the situation I did 12 years ago.
At the beginning of the 2nd semester of my freshman year, I discovered I was pregnant. I was devastated. I went to the student-counseling center to try to make sense of my situation, and scheduled an appointment with a therapist.
After listening to the circumstances leading up to and surrounding my pregnancy, my counselor recommended abortion as the solution to my problem. I remember her rationale being very sound, and although it was ultimately unconvincing, she made a pretty compelling pitch. She pointed out the many disadvantages to continuing my pregnancy, such as the effect it would have on my family and my academic career. She argued it would be better for me to terminate the pregnancy, all things considered.
I left the appointment feeling frustrated. I wanted to explore all my options, and, in my opinion, my counselor gave advice far too prematurely.
At that point I felt I had no recourse. I didn't know where else on campus to go. I had extreme morning sickness and began missing classes. I fell behind in my studies and the stress of my situation, both physically and emotionally, bore heavily upon me. I shared a 400-square-foot dorm room with two women who, like most freshmen students, stayed up late and frequently had guests in the room. The situation was untenable, and the lack of privacy took its toll. I was unable to get the rest pregnant women need, especially those with difficult pregnancies such as mine.
Having decided to carry my pregnancy to term, I felt the only choice I had was to drop out of school and move back home. I was unable to get a full refund for the semester, and lost $10,000 in the process. I left my friends, my school and my academic career because I didn't have the support necessary to continue my studies. It was a tremendous price to pay for making the choice I made. It is a price I don't ever want another woman to pay simply because she chooses to continue her unexpected pregnancy.
If I had had access to the type of resources Congresswoman Hart is proposing today, I could have had:
- Access to housing more suitable for pregnant students;
- The academic support needed to continue my studies either on a part-time basis, or on a full-time schedule flexible enough to meet my medical needs;
- The resources to research my post-birth options more thoroughly;
- Access to the counseling I so desperately needed; and lastly
- Access to a community of supportive women with whom I could have shared my experiences both during and after my pregnancy.
I am here today to call attention to the significant obstacles faced by pregnant students, and especially birthmothers. If we as a nation don't try to lessen their burden, then more young women will feel as if they are left with no choice but to either terminate their pregnancy or drop out of school. If giving birth is not a viable option for pregnant students who want to remain in school, then we fail to uphold the very right to choose we so steadfastly guard. This is a moral and social failure we can no longer ignore.
My daughter recently turned 12. I felt she would have a better chance in life if I placed her for adoption. Choosing to place my daughter for adoption was the most difficult decision I will ever make, but it was the right one for me and my daughter.
She is a happy and healthy little girl who loves school, her family and, for better or worse, all things French. Her dog is named Paris, and her mother just redesigned her bedroom in Parisian pink with a giant mural of the Eiffel Tower. She is a loved little girl, and I derive great joy knowing that she lives such a full and rich life. We talk frequently, and I dream of one day taking a trip to Paris together, hopefully sometime during the spring.
The path I took was difficult. But I shudder to think of life without her. I learned so much about love and truth and sacrifice as a result of my decision, and I know I am better for it.
However, having said that, I don't find virtue in needless suffering, and I know much of the struggle I endured could have been assuaged had I more support. I've had several women tell me they wish they could have done what I did, but felt that it was simply impossible.
I encourage you to pass the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Pregnant and Parenting Student Services Act and reverse the undue burden that has been needlessly imposed on pregnant students who choose to give birth.
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