Groundbreaking Effort Provides Model of Support for Pregnant Women
June 29, 2011
FFL President Serrin M. Foster recently spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony for Room at the Inn, a new maternity home and aftercare facility which will be built on land donated adjacent to Belmont Abbey College in Charlotte, North Carolina. Students will be able to attend colleges in the area. Serrin's remarks follow.
Room at the Inn Groundbreaking
Remarks by FFL President Serrin M. Foster
It's an honor to speak today alongside the many dignitaries gathered here today, but I'm sure that each will agree that the real VIPs are the women and children whom we serve.
After years of advocating on Capitol Hill for pregnant women who are poor, the working poor, or victims of sexual assault or domestic violence, Feminists for Life's Board wondered how we could make a unique contribution.
Then a board member named Jeanne shared her story. She was pregnant and alone in college and said, "without housing, child care and maternity coverage, it didn't feel like much of a free choice."
I realized that after years of presenting "The Feminist Case Against Abortion" that I had never seen a visibly pregnant woman on top colleges and universities across the country.
We asked, "Where have all the pregnant women gone?" Guttmacher Institute gave us the answer: Gone for abortions, almost every one.
Half of all abortions are performed on college-age women. And the lack of resources and support are the two over-arching reasons.
Surveying Students for Life advocates on campuses across the country, Feminists for Life's groundbreaking report, "Perception is Reality," confirmed our fears: Even students who were not in a crisis situation couldn't find basic resources on campus.
As one respondent said, "it feels like an unspoken rule at my school that if you do get pregnant, your college experience here is over." How did this happen?
In 1972, Sarah Weddington argued before the US Supreme Court that a pregnant woman could not complete her education. Are pregnant women suddenly stupid? Can they not read, write or think?
No woman should be forced to choose between sacrificing her education and career plans or sacrificing her child.
Pregnant and parenting students and birthmothers should not feel forced to terminate their educations.
Sixty-nine percent of women cite finances as a reason for having an abortion. We know education is the answer to poverty.
When Cindy Brown, then executive director of Room at the Inn, found Feminists for Life's website, "light bulbs went off." Cindy shared what she learned with Abbot Placid Solari, who became determined to answer the unmet needs of pregnant students.
As an advocate for women on campus, FFL is proud to be a catalyst for change.
This day is so significant, your work so remarkable, this effort so revolutionary, that when Cindy Brown, now Vice Chair of Feminists for Life, shared the joyful news about Room at the Inn's groundbreaking, another FFL Board member, Mike Sciscenti said we had to come to Charlotte to witness this moment in women's history.
FFL Board members have come from across the country, including our Chair, Pat O'Kane who came from the San Francisco Bay area.
Feminists for Life is pleased to be a catalyst for change—providing the call to action, the research and vision, for a better way.
But it is Jeannie Wray, the Board, volunteers, and supporters of Room at the Inn, and Abbot Solari, who deserve full credit for doing the heavy lifting.
One hundred and seventy-five years ago, a suffragist named Eleanor Kirk connected the dots between the unmet needs of women and abortion.
"What will be come of the babies—did you ask—and you? Can you not see that the idea is to educate women that they may be self reliant, self sustaining, self respecting? God speed the time for the sake of the babies. Little ones will then be welcome.">B?
Thank you for welcoming the little ones, and for helping women to become "self reliant, self sustaining," and "self respecting," because women deserve better than abortion.
Under the leadership of Serrin Foster, Feminists for Life of America has successfully advocated benefits for poor and pregnant women, has been an outspoken opponent of pregnancy discrimination, and helped to prevent poverty and coerced abortions due to threats to withhold child support. Serrin worked to pass the Violence Against Women Act, and she also testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in support of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, also known as "Laci and Conner's Law." The creator of the Women Deserve Better® campaign has spent the last 17 years focusing her efforts on addressing the needs of underserved pregnant and parenting students—who are at highest risk of abortion. Serrin's landmark speech, "The Feminist Case Against Abortion," has been recognized as one of the "great speeches in history" in an anthology called Women's Rights. Her efforts earned her an honorary doctorate from Belmont Abbey College in 2008.