This week, amidst a growing list of urgent priorities and rapidly approaching government funding deadlines, the House of Representatives is instead opting to vote for legislation to further stigmatize and restrict students’ reproductive decisions.
Under the guise of protecting students’ rights, the House leadership is turning its anti-abortion crusade on college and university students, pushing legislation to limit their ability to make reproductive health care decisions. Despite its lofty title, the Pregnant Students’ Rights Act does absolutely nothing to protect the rights of pregnant students; in fact, it employs anti-abortion language to limit their options and stigmatize and shame their choices.
Here’s the thing: there’s absolutely no debate that pregnant and parenting students need support (IWPR’s website is full of resources that underscore this fact.) One in five post-secondary students are parents, accounting for over three million students, and they often need specific supports and resources to help them succeed in college. If Congress wanted to take action to protect student parents’ rights and to help this critical population, IWPR has plenty of suggestions for where to start, including improving the affordability of college, providing relief for student borrowers, improving enforcement of Title IX protections, increasing federal funding for child care, and lowering barriers to social safety net programs like TANF, SNAP, and Section 8 housing. The federal government has a litany of options at its disposal to support pregnant and parenting students find success on college campuses that members of Congress could—and should—explore.
But instead of pursuing any of these legislative opportunities, this bill relies on anti-abortion language and seeks to limit students’ reproductive health care decisions. It is not a serious attempt to protect the rights of pregnant or parenting students but rather a thinly veiled effort to further undermine and stigmatize abortion access in this country and to enshrine these anti-abortion talking points into statute.
The timing of the vote underscores this: the bill is being rushed to the House floor ahead of the annual “March for Life” anti-abortion rally in Washington, DC, on January 19, and in advance of what would have been the 51st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision on January 22. This suggests this vote isn’t about pregnant or parenting student rights at all—it’s about scoring political points with the anti-abortion crowds descending on DC in the coming days.
While we can have serious policy discussions about how to protect the rights of pregnant and parenting students and support their success in post-secondary education, we see no evidence of that conversation in the House this week. The bill under consideration is not a serious effort to meet the needs of pregnant and parenting students, it’s just more of the same—attacks on abortion access, reproductive rights, and bodily autonomy. The bottom line is this: pregnant students don’t need politicians whipping up shame and stigma around reproductive health choices.
As long-time supporters of student parent success, IWPR strongly opposes the Pregnant Students’ Rights Act under consideration in the House of Representatives this week.