by Steven Ertelt
May 13, 2007
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A new investigative report from ESPN reveals that women involved in college athletics are increasingly having abortions to avoid losing their scholarships. The sports television station’s "Outside the Lines" program said the abortions are a response to college policies saying pregnant students will lose their university funding.
The report included interviews with seven Clemson University students who indicated they each had abortions to get around the policy.
The students said that the NCAA has no general rules on how colleges should treat pregnant athletes but said most women they know feel abortion is their only solution to a pregnancy. They told ESPN there is tremendous pressure on them to not miss any games.
Others have tried to hide their pregnancies and play anyway as Syracuse basketball player Fantasia Goodwin did last season. She continued playing despite being seven months pregnant.
Cassandra Harding, a University of Memphis student on a full athletic scholarship for track, faced similar problems and shared her pregnancy experience with the station.
"I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. I thought, what am I going to do now?" she said. "I didn’t want to lose my scholarship."
But her coaches, once they found out, said she would likely lose the scholarship — and she eventually did.
Harding told ESPN that she and other members of the track team were forced to sign a statement saying they would lose their scholarships if they ever became pregnant.
"The track coaches hand that out to you. They like read it over and then tell you to sign it," said Harding, a jumper. "Well, I wasn’t really thinking anything about it because I wasn’t going to get pregnant."
Harding indicated she considered having an abortion when she became pregnant at the end of her sophomore year in 2004 but kept her baby instead.
She is now back on the track team as Memphis decided to renew the scholarship after she had her child when she won a place on the team as a walk-on.
"I shouldn’t have been put in that position," she said. "I’m so happy I have my baby."
Harding had to sign the no pregnancy document again when she returned.
The Memphis athletic department refused to talk with the media about its policy and insisted that it has abided by the law and policies of the NCAA.
"The University of Memphis does not believe that it has violated any federal laws in the matter of Cassandra Harding," the school said in a statement.
NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson did not comment about the Clemson or University of Memphis cases but said there are no national NCAA guidelines about treating pregnant student athletes. He said any scholarship decisions remain with the colleges or universities.
He did say the NCAA allows students to apply for an extra year of eligibility which would not count as a redshirt year but would allow girls who become pregnant to attend college an extra year and stay in school for six years and compete for four.
Harding teammate Gail Lee signed the anti-pregnancy document too and said that she feels the policy treats women in an inequitable manner.
"There are guys on our team that have babies. Why wouldn’t they have to follow the same rule?" she asked.
Barbara Osborne, a lawyer and assistant professor of sports law research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told AP that some colleges are beginning to allow for pregnancies and do what they can to help pregnant and parenting students, but she says more needs to be done.
"Refusing to renew scholarships solely because of pregnancy smacks of moralizing," Osborne said, "and to actually have a policy like that and put it in writing seems very 1940s and ’50s."