Published: Monday, November 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
For the third time in five years, Feminists for Life of America (FFL) visited Boston College to begin conversations about what changes need to be made on campus to enable a student who becomes pregnant to stay in school and keep the baby.
The president of FFL, Serrin Foster, hosted a panel of BC administrators and students on Thursday in Gasson 305 to explore the options currently available to a pregnant student at BC. The panel included representatives from University Health Services, UGBC, University Counseling Services, the Office of Residential Life, the Brighton Pregnancy Resource Center, and the BC Pro Life Club.
Although the event was organized and largely attended by members of the BC Pro Life Club, Foster began by saying, “This isn’t a debate on abortion. It isn’t event about contraception. It’s about talking about the resources.”
Foster, as well as a couple of panelists, had been involved with the previous two FFL Pregnancy Resource Forums held at Boston College. Thursday’s event, organized by Katie Martin, A&S ’15, and Gabriela Garcia, A&S ’14, focused largely on housing and day care options available for mothers who would want to continue to attend BC.
Chris Darcy, associate director of Residential Ministry in the Office of Residential Life, admitted that housing at BC does not currently lend itself well to raising a child.
“A lot of other institutions have single rooms available [for women who want to raise a child],” Darcy said. “We are so oversubscribed at this point, we have almost 99 percent occupancy in our residence halls. We would, of course, work with the woman involved. Say that they decided to come back, if they wanted to return to living in the residence halls, we certainly would hold spaces for them to accommodate them.”
Boston College’s Office of Residential Life can also provide a pregnant student who wishes to stay in school with help finding an off campus residence.
Besides the lack of maternity housing at BC, the panel discussion also revealed an inaccessibility to daycare services on campus. There is a daycare program in place for faculty members, but children must be 2 years and 9 months old in order to be eligible, and it is somewhat expensive, according to Nancy Baker, associate director of Nursing and Administration for University Health Services.
Despite the accommodations missing from BC’s resources for pregnant students, Darcy and Thomas McGuinness, associate vice president of University Counseling, emphasized that all of the relevant offices at BC would do whatever they could to help the woman in question. As of now, partially as a result of the extremely small number of pregnant students who do come into one of their offices, they are all dealt with on a “case by case basis,” according to McGuinness.
“We’re going to work with everyone involved,” Darcy said. “You get to one office and you get to open up doors to six or seven other offices.”
The panel agreed that one of the largest problems is the fact that students who are pregnant may not even see keeping the child and staying in school as an option, and as a result may not go into any of the offices at BC that are available for assistance.
McGuinness spoke about a statistic he had read in the National Health Survey, which stated that 2 percent of women who had sex in a year became pregnant. Based on the undergraduate population of BC, this statistic would mean that roughly 90 women got pregnant each year at BC. Baker stated, however, that only one or two come into University Health Services per year.
The panel decided that communication about the resources available was integral to ensuring that students who did become pregnant got the help they need. At the end of the event, Foster encouraged all the panelists and audience members to really make strides in this area, perhaps by creating a print list of the resources for pregnant students that could be passed out at freshman orientation or to faculty.
She also urged people to form committees and try to deal with the longer-term and more expensive goals of providing maternity housing and day care services on campus.
“Pregnancy is an ability, not a disability,” Foster said. “An education should not terminate a pregnancy and a pregnancy should not terminate an education.”