On January 18, 2024, the Coalition for Pregnant and Parenting Students Advocacy led a letter from 60 organizations opposing H.R. 6914, the Pregnant Students’ Rights Act — an anti-abortion law that would not address the key barriers to pregnant students’ educational attainment, and instead would further shame and stigmatize people for their pregnancy outcomes.
Dear Speaker Johnson and Leader Jeffries,
The Coalition for Pregnant and Parenting Students Advocacy is a diverse group of advocates and experts dedicated to advancing civil rights protections and institutional resources for pregnant and parenting students. We are joined by the undersigned organizations in voicing our opposition to H.R. 6914, the Pregnant Students’ Rights Act—a thinly veiled anti-abortion law which would not address the key barriers to pregnant students’ educational attainment, and instead would further shame and stigmatize people for their pregnancy outcomes.
This latest bill to “protect the rights of pregnant students” falls far short of the protections that are actually necessary for pregnant and parenting students and their children.
Students who are pregnant and/or parents deserve to complete their education free from bias and harassment, in environments that support them on their educational journeys. Unfortunately, pregnant and parenting students are routinely stigmatized, discriminated against, and denied the resources, accommodations, and support they need to thrive in their educational institutions.
More than 5.4 million college students in the United States are parents, which is nearly one quarter of undergraduate students and nearly one third of graduate students. Despite earning higher GPAs than non-parenting students, parenting college students are less likely to graduate. This is not due to personal failing, but rather a lack of institutional support and recognition of the unique barriers to college completion for parenting students. Pregnant and parenting students often experience feeling disconnected from the larger education community and are not aware of who they can speak to when they experience discrimination because of their pregnancy or parenting status.
The proposed bill relies on anti-abortion language and seeks to limit students’ reproductive healthcare decisions. This type of language is part of a deliberate strategy by the anti-abortion movement to further legal grounds for a national abortion ban now that the Supreme Court has overturned the constitutional right to abortion care as established in Roe v. Wade. Furthermore, the bill language contrasts with existing legal protections for pregnant students experiencing a range of outcomes related to their pregnancies.
Our belief in personal autonomy and respect for every person’s capacity to make their own decisions—including whether to continue their pregnancy or not—is at the core of our work to support pregnant and parenting students. This bill does not contain any meaningful supportsthat would actually help pregnant and parenting students be able to remain enrolled and meet their educational goals.
Such supports are critically needed, and include:
- Strengthened Title IX protections
- Nondiscrimination protections at the state and local level
- Accessible and affordable child care, and increased funding for on-campus child care
- Access to early education and pre-kindergarten services
- Transportation access
- Basic needs security (including food, housing, clothing, etc.)
- Flexible school attendance policies
- Lactation accommodations
- Less stigma and shame around young parenthood
- Increased accountability measures for institutions who fail to protect pregnant and parenting students
- Federal funding to support campus Title IX offices’ work to prevent and investigate discrimination against pregnant students
- Mandatory data collection on students’ parenting statuses
Strides toward these meaningful supports are in progress. We applaud, for example, Representatives Lucy McBath and Deborah Ross’s recent introduction of the Understanding Student Parent Outcomes Act of 2023, which would allow essential data collection on the barriers to college graduation for pregnant and parenting students. But sweeping legislation is necessary to ensure that pregnant and parenting students and their families are protected.
Although pregnant and parenting students face many roadblocks, they can thrive when their educational institutions listen to them, support them, and prevent discrimination against them. While balancing their health, caregiving responsibilities, and educational goals is challenging, these added responsibilities often renew students’ dedication to their studies. While the decision to parent and/or continue pregnancy is a personal one, the barriers that pregnant and parenting students face are not. This proposed bill would reinforce structural and institutional bias and scrutiny of the decisions students make regarding their personal lives.
We welcome the opportunity to have an open dialogue with the sponsors of the “Pregnant Students’ Rights Act” and with any other members of Congress who are ready to step up as the champion that pregnant and parenting students in our nation need and deserve.
(See letter and full list of organizations for January 18, 2024 letter to the Senate)
(See letter and full list of organizations for January 10, 2024 letter to the House Committee on Education & Workforce)