Ci3 Seeks Youth for Mobile App Dev Project – PAID – Next Meeting 12/17 (UPDATED)

RockDOTS

UPDATE: Tonight’s meeting has been CANCELLED. For information about the next meeting, please email Dr. Lucy Hebert at lhebert@bsd.uchicago.edu.

Are you between the ages of 15-24 and interested in contraception, STI prevention and technology?

Ci3 is seeking young people to assist in the development of a mobile app to help youth make healthy decisions about contraception and STI prevention.

Our next meeting will be held Wednesday, December 17, from 5-7 p.m. at Ci3’s offices at 1225 E. 60th St., on The University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park.

RSVP is required. Please contact Dr. Lucy Hebert at (773) 834-7196 or lhebert@bsd.uchicago.edu to confirm your spot.

  • What will I be doing? You will help to design a mobile app, by engaging in a series of group discussions focusing on pregnancy and STI prevention. We will lead every session, and all you have to do is come ready to participate. We even provide dinner!
  • What is the time commitment? You will participate in 8 sessions over the next 2 years. Each session will last 1-2 hours.
  • Where will it take place? All sessions will be held at the Ci3 offices (1225 E. 60th St. on The University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park).
  • What do I get out of it? Over the course of 2 years, you will be compensated $300.

Why you should work with us:

  • Help create a dynamic tool to encourage young people like you to engage in healthy sexual behavior
  • Learn about mobile app development, human-centered design, and sexual and reproductive health
  • Collaborate with clinicians, researchers and your peers as an interdisciplinary team

For more information or to RSVP to the Dec. 17 session, please contact Dr. Lucy Hebert at (773) 834-7196 or lhebert@bsd.uchicago.edu.

Coercion and Reproductive Justice

An essential piece of the reproductive justice and sexual rights movement is the right of all women to make reproductive choices free from coercion.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, coercion in any form is wrong and compromises choice. Coercion violates women’s right to decide freely if and when to have a child and the right to have the government respect her decision.

The Guttmacher report condemns coercion in the form of U.S. state legislatures passing increasingly restrictive abortion restrictions to keep women from ending an unwanted pregnancy. Parental notification or consent, mandatory waiting periods, and inaccurate and biased counseling exist under the guise of “preventing coerced abortion”. Rather, these TRAP laws aim not so much to inform women about the abortion procedure, as to dissuade them from choosing an abortion in the first place.

Increasingly, these laws prevent women from making decisions about how and when to give birth, posing a risk to all pregnant women, including those who want to stay pregnant.

Roe v. Wade gave women the right to choose abortion. Roe v. Wade also gave women the right not to choose abortion.

In the United States, a dark history of forced sterilization and present day controversies about the rights of the disabled remind us that as much as women have a freedom to abortion, if she chooses to continue a pregnancy, she has the equal right to do so.

Coerced abortion occurs in many forms. In January 2014, a Florida man was sentenced  to nearly 14 years in prison for tricking his pregnant girlfriend into taking Cytotec, a brand-name version of misoprostol, which causes miscarriage. Further complicating the issue, he was initially charged with first-degree murder under the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, punishable by life in prison, but he pleaded guilty to lesser charges of product tampering. The fetus was estimated to be at seven weeks.

In 2013 in Texas, a pregnant 16 year old girl claimed her parents were pressuring her to have an abortion when she wanted to continue the pregnancy and get married. When the pregnancy was confirmed, the teenager’s father allegedly became angry and insisted that she have an abortion and it was his decision.  Texas is one of the states that requires parental or judicial permission for a minor to obtain abortion; in this case, the minor had to obtain judicial permission not to have an abortion.

Coerced abortion compromises reproductive justice and often results from broader issues such as domestic and sexual violence, birth control access and tampering, economic disadvantage, education expectations, and religious convictions. Abortion is not the problem. The prevention of choice is the problem.

Jcr_my_body_my_choice

Section study finds young women involve a parent in abortion when they anticipate support

‘Cause it’s like, ‘man what are they going to think’ and ‘are they going to hate me for this?’ That is what goes through your mind.

When a young woman seeks to terminate a pregnancy, how does she decide whether to talk to a parent? A recent study from the Section of Family Planning and Contraceptive Research at the University of Chicago found that pregnant teens will turn to parents and adults who are engaged in their lives and who will offer support, regardless of her decision. Young women will avoid talking with parents who are less involved or may try to prevent them from seeking care.

The study, recently published online ahead of print in the American Journal of Public Health, explored the factors young women under age 18 consider when deciding to involve a parent. Researchers conducted interviews with 30 minors seeking abortion in Illinois, prior to implementation of a parental notice law in 2013. Currently, there are 38 states with laws requiring a parent provide consent or receive notification before a minor can access abortion.

Image courtesy of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (icah.org)

Image courtesy of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (icah.org)

“There’s a commonly accepted idea that teens will try to hide their pregnancy or abortion decision. However, pregnant young women actually do turn to parents in the majority of cases. In our study, 70% of the young women involved a parent or guardian. They thought carefully about which parents and adults in their lives they could turn to for help in making their decision,” said Lee Hasselbacher, policy researcher at the Section of Family Planning.

While each young woman’s family circumstance was different, there were several common motivations for involving a parent. Factors in favor included close and supportive relationships, need for help with logistics like travel or payment, or experiences that made discovery of the pregnancy seem inevitable.

I mean, I wouldn’t normally tell my dad but it came to a point where I needed another $50 for the abortion to be done and so I relied on daddy.

Minors expressed a range of motivations for not telling a parent about their abortion as well. Some teens worried that if their parent learned of their decision, it would dramatically change their relationship or feared it would even lead to anger or harm. Young women also discussed the lack of a relationship or presence as a reason they did not want to involve a parent.

To me that [disclosing pregnancy and abortion] would start a whole lot of drama and right now um, our relationship is like- is kind of on good terms but it’s not so for me telling her this um, I think it like would go back down the drain.

One of the strongest findings was that among those young women who did not involve either parent, most were concerned that one or both parents would directly interfere with their decision to get an abortion.

She just told me, like, it’s not right… and she told me like, if I did get pregnant, like, she told me she wouldn’t let me have one. She said it’s my responsibility.

“This study reveals the complicated lives of pregnant young women and suggests that young women, not policymakers, are the ones best able to identify those people in their lives who can help them deal with a pregnancy. This study reinforces the need to listen to these young women and support policies that encourage family communication long before a pregnancy or abortion decision,” said Dr. Melissa Gilliam, Chief of the Section of Family Planning and Contraceptive Research and author on the study.

Reference

Hasselbacher LA, Dekleva A, Tristan S, Gilliam ML. Factors Influencing Parental Involvement Among Minors Seeking an Abortion: A Qualitative Study. Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print September 11, 2014: e1-e5. Doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.302116.

Press

Jersey Tribune

Medical Xpress

Science Daily

Science Newsline

 

 

Abortion & Reproductive Health Care for Incarcerated Women

orange-is-the-new-black-01Orange is the New Black returned for a second season to Netflix last Friday and continued a major plot line involving a pregnant inmate and the father of her baby, who happens to be a guard in the prison. What started as a secret romance escalated quickly due to the difficulties pregnant women face while behind bars. Legally speaking, a sexual relationship between an inmate and prison official can never be considered consensual and so the characters hatched a series of plans about how to deal with the pregnancy. Could she secretly terminate the pregnancy without anyone finding out? Could she continue the pregnancy and receive adequate health care? Could she hide the pregnancy and the true father? What happens when she goes into labor? What punishment(s) will the couple endure for their actions?

While the TV show mixes fact and fiction, it does honestly depict the reality of what happens when a woman becomes pregnant in prison or enters prison already pregnant. In addition to this ongoing pregnancy plot line, in the first season an inmate entered prison pregnant, went into labor and delivered in a hospital, and was separated from her baby shortly afterwards and returned to prison. Between six and 10 percent of women are already pregnant when admitted to a prison or jail and they can become pregnant during private visits with partners, home visits, while in work release programs, or as a result of sexual assault [ACOG]. Studies also show that approximately 14 percent of girls are pregnant when they arrive to juvenile detention.

In recognition of the prevalence of these realities, the Section published a policy brief on Abortion & Reproductive Health Care for Incarcerated Women. Although our brief focuses on Illinois policies and programs, incarcerated women in state and federal facilities across the United States face myriad barriers to receiving reproductive heath care, including abortion services. Despite having the constitutional right to have an abortion (as guaranteed under Roe v Wade), accessing the procedure while incarcerated presents many challenges, including facilities’ ad hoc responses to abortion requests and the logistics and challenges of organizing transportation and payment.

The brief also discusses the practice of shackling, prison nursery programs, and policy reforms needed to address the gendered needs of women prisoners.

Although Orange is the New Black errs on the dramatic side of storytelling, it does provide an overdue platform for discussing the basic human rights of incarcerated women who have the same rights as civilians to make decisions about their own bodies.

Proposed Bill to Safeguard Pregnant Women’s Economic Security

Section policy research assistant Shoshana O’Brien explores the present and potential future rights of pregnant employees in Illinois. 

Many pregnant women continue working throughout their pregnancies to provide economic security for themselves and their families. Pregnant women are just as productive and capable as women who are not pregnant. However, in Illinois, pregnant workers in many occupations are not protected from losing their jobs because of their pregnancies.

No woman should have to choose between having a healthy pregnancy or being able to keep her job and pay her bills. Women, when they become pregnant, remain capable of working just as effectively as before their pregnancies. However, advocates voice concerns that pregnant women working in physically strenuous or hazardous occupations,from nursing to law enforcement, routinely confront situations in which they are physically unable to perform aspects of their job or, although physically able to do the job, seek to avoid certain job tasks, such as heavy lifting, because of the potential risks to maternal or fetal health. Because of potential risks to fetal and maternal health, pregnant workers often require simple accommodations that many employers refuse to grant.

pregnant worker

Image: cnn.com

Pregnant workers can be fired or forced out of their jobs because their employers deny them simple work modifications—permission to carry a water bottle, a break from lifting heavy boxes, more frequent bathroom breaks—that would allow these pregnant women to remain in the workplace, to keep their insurance coverage, to provide for their families, and to maintain a healthy pregnancy.[1] These temporary work modifications are especially important for the economic security and prosperity of lower income women and women who are single heads of households. For many of these women losing a job means losing her and her family’s health insurance, economic instability and possible eviction, homelessness, and bankruptcy.

In Illinois, 50% of people receive health insurance through employer-sponsored plans[2]. When a pregnant employee loses her job, she also loses her health insurance. Even if she becomes eligible for Medicaid, she may still have a gap in her health insurance, and her health providers will likely change. This is disastrous from a public health perspective, from a human rights perspective, and from an economic perspective. Health insurance during pregnancy is especially crucial because prenatal care is important in avoiding pregnancy complications like low birth weight and infant mortality[3]. Losing health insurance disrupts a pregnant woman’s access to healthcare at a critical time for her and her child. When an employer refuses to provide pregnant women with temporary job modifications, pregnant women can be coerced into taking unpaid leave, or be fired. If a pregnant worker cannot afford to lose her paycheck and health insurance, she may put her own health, as well as her pregnancy, at risk by continuing to work in unsafe conditions.

House Bill 8[4], a bill currently up before the Illinois Legislature, would ensure that working pregnant women are accommodated by their employers in the workplace so they can continue working throughout their pregnancies. HB 8 promotes workplace fairness and women’s health by requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions, unless such accommodations would cause an undue hardship on the employer. The protections provided in HB 8 are based on the protections given to disabled Americans in the workplace under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If passed, House Bill 8, like the Americans with Disabilities Act, would prevent employers from pushing pregnant workers out of their places of work by requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions unless the employer can show that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the ordinary operation of the employer’s business—just as employers do for limitations caused by other conditions, such as injury or illness on the job. Nationally, the share of workers who give birth each year is only 1.6 percent of all workers, and a significantly smaller share of workers would require pregnancy accommodations.[5]

While federal law already requires employers to provide pregnant workers the same treatment and benefits as other workers who are similar in their ability or inability to work, courts and employers have interpreted these laws as to deny pregnant workers the kinds of job modifications that courts and employers routinely offer to other employees who are injured on the job or otherwise disabled. This has significant consequences for the health and well-being of pregnant women as well as their families. Additional protections for pregnant workers would ensure that women do not have to choose between the health of their pregnancy and their economic security.

3_3_pregnantemployee

Image: ohiodentalclinics.com

 

UPDATE: This bill has passed in the Illinois House of Representatives and will now go on to the Senate.

About the Author:

My name is Shoshana O’Brien, and I am a graduating student of the University of Chicago Law School and the University of Chicago Graduate Program in Health Administration and Policy. I am also a 2011 alum of the College, where I double majored in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. I am passionate about social justice, civil liberties, increasing access to health care and human rights. As a policy research assistant at the Section of Family Planning & Contraceptive Research within University of Chicago Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, I work on reproductive rights issues. Currently, I am authoring a policy brief about access to reproductive healthcare for persons with developmental disabilities in Illinois, focusing on issues of voluntary and involuntary sterilization. In addition to my work in the reproductive health field, I have been involved for almost three years with the Mental Health Law Clinic.  Last summer,  I worked abroad in Australia and South Korea. In Darwin, Australia, I worked as a Norval Morris Criminal Justice Fellow with the NAAFVLS, where I continued my interest in healthcare policy and law by tracking the health consequences of legal responses to domestic violence in at risk indigenous communities in Australia and the United States. While in South Korea working for Human Asia, I focused on human rights issues in the Middle East as well as domestic violence concerns in South Korea.

[1] Farrell N, Dolkas J, Munro M. Expecting A Baby, Not A Lay-Off: Why Federal Law Should Require the Reasonable Accommodation of Pregnant Workers. Equal Rights Advocates 2013. Available at:

http://www.equalrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Expecting-A-Baby-Not-A-Lay-Off-Why-Federal-Law-Should-Require-the-Reasonable-Accommodation-of-Pregnant-Workers.pdf.

[2] Henry J . Kaiser Family Foundation. Health Insurance Coverage of the Total Population, http://kff.org/other/state-indicator/total-population/. Accessed April 7, 2014.

[3] Farrell N, Dolkas J, Munro M. Expecting A Baby, Not A Lay-Off: Why Federal Law Should Require the Reasonable Accommodation of Pregnant Workers. Equal Rights Advocates 2013. Available at: http://www.equalrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Expecting-A-Baby-Not-A-Lay-Off-Why-Federal-Law-Should-Require-the-Reasonable-Accommodation-of-Pregnant-Workers.pdf.

[4] To read the full bill, as well as all house modifications see: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=8&GAID=12&DocTypeID=HB&SessionID=85&GA=98 and http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=09800HB0008ham001&GA=98&SessionId=85&DocTypeId=HB&LegID=68233&DocNum=8&GAID=12&Session= .

[5] National Women’s Law Center. Pregnant Workers Make Up a Small Share of the Workforce and Can Be Readily Accommodated: A State-By-State Analysis. Washington D.C.: National Women’s Law Center; March 2013, available at: http://www.nwlc.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/state_by_state_analysis.pdf.

Pregnant Teens Under Age 15 Have Unique Risk Factors: Study

The following is the text of a Reuters article summarizing a study conducted by Dr. Marcela Smid, a former OB-GYN resident at The University of Chicago Medical Center who conducted a study on pregnant teenagers with the support of The University of Chicago Section of Family Planning. This study was coauthored by Section chief Dr. Melissa Gilliam, Section faculty Dr. Amy Whitaker, and then-Section staff Summer Martins, MPH. The original story can be found here.

Girls who became pregnant before age 15 were more likely to report having sex with much older partners and initially forgoing contraception than their slightly older peers, according to a new study.

Nearly 36 percent of girls who first got pregnant before age 15 had sex for the first time with a partner at least six years older, compared to 17 percent of girls who got pregnant between 15 and 19.

That statistic “is very serious and represents complicated relationships with unequal power,” said lead author and obstetrician Dr. Marcela Smid, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She worked on the study while at The University of Chicago.

To make better use of public health awareness and intervention campaigns, Smid and her team (Dr. Gilliam, Dr. Whitaker, and Ms. Martins) wanted to know more about how very young teens were at risk of becoming pregnant.

They used data from the National Survey of Family Growth collected between 2006 and 2010. A total of 3,384 women reported on the survey that they had their first pregnancy before age 20. Within that group, 289 women had become pregnant before age 15 and the rest between 15 and 19.

Girls who became pregnant before age 15 were twice as likely as older girls to be Hispanic or black, the researchers found.

Younger pregnant teens were less likely to have been living with both biological parents at age 14 and less likely to have been brought up within the Catholic or Protestant religions.

Only 25 percent of the youngest teen group reported using contraceptives the first time they had sex, compared to 56 percent of older girls.

While it is “a little bit easier to study live births with national survey and surveillance data,” those statistics don’t tell the complex story of pregnancies, Smid said.

Teen pregnancy study

Image: growingyourbaby.com

Many pregnancies among very young girls end in miscarriage or abortion, she noted.

“We know that their risk of poor pregnancy outcomes is the highest of any age group, even when compared with women who get pregnant at age 45,” Smid said.

In general, U.S. teen pregnancy rates have gradually declined, but, for the youngest teens especially, “any pregnancy rate above zero is too high,” she said.

About one in 1,000 girls under the age of 15 became pregnant in 2008, the researchers write in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology. That compares with about 68 per 1,000 girls between ages 15 and 19.

The researchers also found that 89 percent of the under-15 group did not want to become pregnant in the first place, compared with 75 percent of teens between ages 15 and 19.

“There are still things we don’t know,” Smid said. “For example, we looked at the first sex experience, but we don’t know the circumstance or the partner involved in the first pregnancy.”

“Measuring pregnancy intention is an extremely complicated thing to do,” said Phillip Levine, an economist at Wellesley College in Massachusetts who has studied teen pregnancy.

“Asking someone years after the fact what was going on in their minds during the act – that’s difficult to untangle,” he said.

Women in the new study were in their early 30s, on average, when asked about past pregnancies.

Levine also noted that for some girls, tough economic and family situations mean there’s not much of an incentive to avoid early pregnancies.

“What we need to consider to fix the problem is think about how these disadvantages contribute to teens becoming pregnant,” Levine, was not involved in the current study, told Reuters Health.

“Teens must want to avoid getting pregnant, or else it doesn’t matter what the intervention is,” whether sex education or better contraceptive access.

If young girls are already on a path that does not include college or a job that leads to a change in socioeconomic status, then having a baby may not seem like such a bad idea, he explained.

“A lot of the problem is about opportunity,” Levine said.

“We live in a society where income inequality is large and growing,” he said. “Teen pregnancy can be seen as a symptom of this broader problem. We need to find ways to allow people to be upwardly mobile.”

SOURCE: bit.ly/1eXPm0Y Obstetrics & Gynecology, online February 4, 2014.

Research: Adolescents Optimistic about the Role Motherhood Will Play in their Lives

Over one million adolescent girls get pregnant in the United States each year.(1) And of all adolescent mothers, roughly 25% give birth to a second child within two years of giving birth to their first.(2) Teenage motherhood has been traditionally associated with high school dropout, lack of college enrollment and limited future job prospects, promoting a predisposition towards poverty.(1) Unarguably, many of these adolescent mothers will experience hardships in maintaining economic stability. However, that is not the outcome for all teen mothers, nor does it have it be.

In contrast to the pervasive media messages of judgment and expected failure toward pregnant teenagers, it has been shown that positive social support of teen mothers has been correlated with maternal competency behaviors, feelings of love towards the infant, and gratification in the maternal role.(3) Teen parents who were able to remain living with their parents or relatives have been more likely to return to school, to obtain a high school diploma, to be employed, and to be free from welfare dependence.(4,5,7) Further, it has been documented that pregnant adolescents who give as well as receive support from their parents report higher levels of childcare mastery and life satisfaction than teens without this bi-directional support.(6) Even more astonishing is that many adolescents who experience pregnancy at a young age manage to not view themselves as pigeonholed into the typical “failure as inevitable” stereotype. On the contrary, many young women viewed pregnancy as a positive force in their life.(4)

In The Postpartum Adolescent Birth Control Study, researchers from The University of Chicago’s Section of Family Planning and Contraceptive Research sought to answer this two-fold question: “What are the future goals of adolescent mothers, and what factors may be influencing those goals?” During the course of the first post-partum year, researchers interviewed teenage mothers five times to examine contraceptive use, health status, social support, and risk of repeat pregnancy. The results were surprising. In addition to viewing pregnancy as an inevitable life event in their teen years, there were also common beliefs that pregnancy would not limit their educational achievement or career goals and was a positive life event. In fact, many teenage mothers reported a belief that having a child would not only not hinder them from desired accomplishments, but would push them to achieve more than they had otherwise planned.(4) In one instance, a study participant stated:

“…People think that once you have a child when you’re a teenager you can’t do nothing else with your life, you can’t have a high school diploma… I [want to] be able to graduate and let my daughter see me.”

Yet another study participant described her desire to escape unsafe living environments in order to provide a better life for her child:

“… Every day you hear about somebody getting killed, robbed … I have a baby and I don’t want none of that for her.”

An ecological framework of the study.

An ecological framework of the study.

Further study results revealed that an initial desire for financial and residential stability, family members’ professional backgrounds and recent life experiences were significant contributing factors toward shaping both short and long-term goals of these young mothers.(6) Especially poignant were study results which indicated having a child did not deter participants from a strong desire for financial success and educational achievement. Study findings suggest that traditional stereotypes of teenage mothers should be challenged, in part to encourage young women to pursue goals they may have more motivation to work toward as a new mother. Further research should explore how teenage mothers perceptions of their pregnancies are affected by media messages and how they restructure their lives to achieve life goals after becoming parents.

Citations

1. National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Why It Matters.

2. Hofferth SL, Reid L, Mott FL. The effects of early childbearing on schooling over time. Family Planning Perspectives. 2001;33:259-67.

3. Mercer, R.T., Hackley, K.C., & Bostrum, A. (1984). Social support of teenage mothers. Birth Defects, 29, 245-290.

4. Future Goals of Adolescent Mothers. Chicago: Section of Family Planning and Contraceptive Research, The University of Chicago (2011).

5. Kirby D. Emerging Answers: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy; May 2001.

6. Stevenson, W., Maton, K.I., & Teti, D.M. (1999). Social support, relationship quality, and well-being among pregnant adolescents. Journal of Adolescence 22, 109-121.

7. Cooley, M.L., & Unger, D.G. (1991). The role of family support in determining developmental outcomes in children of teen mothers. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 21(3), 217-234.

Success in School: Efforts to Improve Education for Students who are Pregnant, Parenting or Survivors of Violence

Pregnancy and parenthood does not have to mark the end of education for young men and women. Yet, according to the National Women’s Law Center, nearly half of all female dropouts say that becoming a parent played a role in their decision to leave school, and 33% of female dropouts said pregnancy was a major factor. Additionally, 24% of male say that becoming a parent played a role in their leaving school, and 19% said it was a major factor.

Life becomes increasingly difficult for young parents who drop out of school. Only 51% of women who have a child before age 20 earn a high school diploma before age 22. Education prospects for pregnant or parenting young women become bleaker at the higher-education level. Two percent of women who have a child before age 18 earn a college degree by age 30. This lack of education means that young parents who drop out of school are more likely than their peers to be unemployed or underemployed, and those who obtain work, earn significantly less than their peers who graduate from high school.

These statistics and studies were recently reviewed at a Town Hall held by The Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH) following the national release of the U.S. Department of Education’s recommendations to support the academic success of pregnant and parenting students under Title IX.

Image from ICAH

Image from ICAH

Before Congress passed Title IX in 1972, pregnant or parenting students were often discriminated against and sometimes dismissed from high school. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination, including on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and parental status.

The recommendations in the Office of Civil Rights’ June 2013 publication include:

  • A pregnant student must be allowed to remain in her regular classes and school if she chooses. Any alternative arrangement must be comparable to the regular school program in academic, extracurricular and enrichment opportunities.
  • Schools must treat pregnant students in the same way that they treat other students with temporary medical conditions. Thus, any special services and arrangements in place must also be provided to pregnant students, such as at-home tutoring and extensions on assignments.
  • A school must excuse a student’s absences because of pregnancy or childbirth for as long as the student’s doctor deems the absences medically necessary. When a student returns to school, she must be allowed to return to the same academic and extracurricular status as before and have the opportunity to make up missed work. Similarly, parenting students must have excused absences when they need to care for sick children or take them to doctors’ appointments.
  • A school must provide assistant to a pregnant or parenting student, such as providing a larger desk or designating a private room for breastfeeding during the school day.
  • A school must be aware and ensure that their teachers and staff follow Title IX requirements and know their rights. This may involve collaborating with a school district’s Title IX coordinator to provide workshops for administrators on laws related to the provision of services to pregnant and parenting students. A grievance procedure must be in place and adhered to by students, parents, and employees.
  • Schools must work with pregnant and parenting students to create a graduation plan tailored to each student’s needs. This may include an academic credit-recovery option for parents who take time off from school or the option for dropouts to return to school.

Although the recommendations focus on secondary schools, the statues apply to all recipients of federal funds, including post-secondary institutions.

Efforts to pass state-level legislation to ensure these and other protections have also been ongoing — the Ensuring Success in Schools Act was first introduced in 2007. This legislation would promote successful school completion for pregnant and parenting students as well as those affected by domestic or sexual violence by:

  • enabling expectant and parenting students as well as student victims of domestic or sexual violence to succeed in school;
  • providing guidance to school districts in responding to and alleviating the barriers to academic success for students who are parents, expectant parents, or survivors of domestic or sexual violence;
  • encouraging the safe and meaningful involvement of parents of students.

A state-designated Ensuring Success in Schools Task Force issued a report in 2010 which made recommendations for accomodating and supporting pregnant and parenting students, but also made recommendations for policies affecting student survivors of domestic and sexual violence. According to the report:

Students who experience dating violence or sexual harassment have a hard time paying attention in school and often participate less in class or do not go to class at all, whether the violence happened on or off school grounds. Testimony at Task Force hearings indicated that student survivors of sexual violence experienced sharp declines in grades following incidence of violence. Witnesses told stories of schools that refused to respect orders of protection, denied reasonable accommodations requested by the survivor, placed the burden of change and compliance on the survivor and not the perpetrator, forced the survivor to repeat her story several times and in front of other people, denied the survivor basic confidentiality, and punished the survivor for minor offenses related to the violence while overlooking the acts of violence committed by the perpetrator. Students who are survivors of domestic and sexual violence want to stay in school and graduate, but fear for their safety and well-being often forces them into involuntary homeschooling or alternative programs or forces them to drop out entirely.

In response, the authors suggested that schools:

  • waive minimum attendance requirements for students who are survivors of domestic or sexual violence and recognize absences as valid if they are due to safety concerns, to having received victim services, or to recovering from physical or psychological injuries;
  • allow students to make up missed work and provide appropriate academic supports, including the option of homebound instruction;
  • allow in-school accommodations—including changing classes, lockers, lunch hours, or any other appropriate safety measures—as necessary to facilitate school attendance and participation;
  • honor any order of protection and civil no-contact order;
  • allow student survivors of violence to transfer to another school without penalty for reasons of safety and well-being; and
  • place the burden of compliance on the perpetrator whenever possible.

Race and Reproductive Politics: An Editorial

In Race, Reproductive Politics and Reproductive Healthcare in the Contemporary United States, an editorial published in Contraception, authors Carole Joffe and Willie Parker discuss how the United States, a country marked by extreme stratification on both racial and economic grounds, has had a history of both targeting the birth rates of people of color while also fueling deep political divisions about the provision of reproductive healh services – particularly abortion and contraception.

The authors discuss their dismay at the contemporary state of reproductive politics in the United States, particularly the manipulation of racial themes by opponents of abortion and birth control.  However, they reference the “mixed legacy” of the United States history and acknowledge the complexity of alandscape “containing both liberatory and coercive possibilities, and always with particular implications for people of color in a white-dominated society.” Ultimately, the authors warn against the “manipulation of the history of race and reproduction by those involved in the [recent anti-abortion] billboard campaigns” and similar efforts which obscure “the contemporary facts of life faced by the most vulnerable black women.”

The authors note that the current climate has galvanized a countermovement of health activists  and they see hope for women’s reproductive rights. At the same time, the authors conclude that “the stakes in this “war” are inevitably the highest for the most vulnerable in our society; Parker calls on fellow health care providers “to trust women to make the good and tough decisions about when and whether to expand their families” and assure them the resources to do so.

Disparities in Reproductive Care Among Urban and Rural Women

In Primary Care Physician’s Perceptions of Barriers To Preventive Reproductive Health Care in Rural Communities [PDF], published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, authors Cynthia H. Chuang, et al, sought to investigate the disparities in reproductive health care between urban and rural women.

Findings suggest that expanding access to preventive reproductive health services in rural areas may not be sufficient to improve use of contraceptive services and preconception care.  Raising public awareness of the importance of pregnancy planning and good preconception health is needed.

In 2010, authors conducted semistructured interviews with 19 rural primary care physicians in central Pennsylvania regarding their experiences in two domains of preventive reproductive health—contraceptive care and preconception care. Physicians perceived that they had a greater role in providing contraceptive care than did nonrural physicians and that contraceptives were widely accessible to patients in their communities; however, the scope of contraceptive services that were provided by each individual provider varied greatly.  Physicians also perceived rural community norms of unintended pregnancies, large families, and indifference toward career and educational goals for young women as the biggest barriers to both contraceptive and preconception care, as these issues predicted a lack of interest in family planning.

Study findings point to the importance of encouraging primary care physicians to take a more proactive role in promoting preventive reproductive health care.  This could be accomplished through continuing education programs and skills-building workshops to increase both provider knowledge about client self-efficacy for reproductive health counseling.