Pregnant students at risk of flunking classes because their schools don’t make accommodations for them have a new tool: the credible threat of a lawsuit.
The Alliance Defending Freedom will issue legal threat letters to public colleges that have allegedly discriminated against pregnant students, under a new Title IX awareness campaign by Students for Life of America.
SFLA released a “Pregnant and Parenting Bill of Rights” as part of the campaign it launched last week, which also promotes its years-old Pregnant on Campus initiative. One goal of the initiative is to alert pregnant athletes, a high-risk group for abortion, about their Title IX rights.
“Lack of awareness of the rights of pregnant and parenting students is widespread, affecting many students and student athletes,” SFLA President Kristan Hawkins said in a press release.
“More than one in five students is raising a child, and of those, more than 70 percent are women,” she continued, citing an April study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
SFLA said it will provide the alliance letter, which concerns “the illegality of coercing students to abort with threats of loss of access to education and opportunity,” to pro-life advocates at public colleges and universities.
Pressuring students to abort “constitutes discrimination based on pregnancy status which is considered to be discrimination based on sex,” the letter says. That includes threatening to take away athletic scholarships and “competitive opportunities” from pregnant students, refusing them housing on the same basis as male athletes, removing them from sports teams and not providing “medical leave from class assignments.”
The letter concludes that students who believe they faced pregnancy-based discrimination, or pressure to abort by a college staff member, “should contact an attorney immediately to ascertain what her rights may be.”
The same day it announced the new campaign, SFLA hosted a Facebook webcast featuring two young women who shared their stories of being pregnant on campus and learning their Title IX rights.
Jessica Riojas said she searched for what rights rights parenting students had at her school but “didn’t really find anything concrete.”
Riojas had failed all her classes the semester she dropped out. In order to academically withdraw and have those grades removed from her record, she had to prove she dropped out due to the pregnancy.
She got the failed grades removed and started the master’s program at Fresno State University for speech pathology. Her daughter is now three years old.
Ruth Asmarzadeh considered having an abortion but decided to give birth to her boy, she told the webcast. She had the baby a week before finals and didn’t understand her rights, or that her teachers would have to work with her.
Asmarzadeh missed her finals and failed her classes. When she tried to reapply for classes the following semester, she learned she had lost her financial aid and could not register.
The college did not let her appeal even though she had proof she failed due to her pregnancy, Asmarzadeh said. Though a friend told her about her Title IX rights and an advisor got her reinstated, Asmarzadeh said she was still too busy with her child and failed her classes again in the new semester.
The campus chapter of SFLA set up a baby shower for her and showed her support, which Asmarzadeh said was “kind of weird because I wasn’t used to that kind of acceptance on campus.”
If she had known her rights when she got pregnant, Asmarzadeh believes she “would still be in school and have my degree by now.” She’s headed back to school in the spring to finish her degree.
Full story at The College Fix.