There’s a lot of good news here. It’s the kind of thing that Feminists for Life’s College Outreach Program has been working on for years — improving options for pregnant and parenting students by recognizing that their needs are just as legitimate as the needs of the childless, and fighting to get those needs met. (I was hoping that the College Outreach Program might be mentioned, but no luck. If you have experience with the program, I would encourage you to send a message to the reporter and/or the editors of the Monitor to let them know about your work for the advancement of student moms.)
Unfortunately, making college more accessible to mothers is seen by many as a sort of luxury or favor to mothers, rather than a matter of justice.
“Institutions should do whatever they can to aid in this process,” says Chelsea Toder, a co-president of VOX, a branch of Planned Parenthood. But, she asks, “If you provide housing to undergraduate mothers, how about married students? … [Or] students who have to care for family members? Everyone has things in their lives that limit them, and it is difficult to figure out when you must alter your own life and when a system should be altered for you.
This is exactly the mindset that pro-life feminists have criticized for years — that we have to alter ourselves and destroy our children in order to fit into a system that was made by and for people who can’t give birth.
Yes, it’s true that institutions can’t adapt themselves to each and every unique situation of people’s lives. But motherhood isn’t some exotic and unpredictable circumstance; over 80 percent of women in the U.S. have or will have children, and over four million women have babies each year. We recognize that it would be unjust to exclude people with physical disabilities from higher education, so colleges must accomodate them. We don’t seem to have come to that recognition with regard to mothers yet, even though motherhood is much more common.
Besides, I’m willing to bet that there are a lot of single fathers walking around on college campuses.