by Steven Ertelt
May 14, 2007
Clemson, SC (LifeNews.com) — Officials at Clemson University in South Carolina are upset by the content of an ESPN investigative report showing that seven current or former students there had abortions in order to retain their athletic scholarships. The report said a school policy takes away scholarships from pregnant students but official contest that claim.
Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips said ESPN’s Sunday morning "Outside the Lines" show made some unsubstantiated claims.
The program featured an interview with one student who said the Clemson policy played a key role in pressuring her to have an abortion.
The telecast also featured an interview with Clemson director of student-athlete performance Loreto Jackson.
Phillips responded to the news program with a statement on the school’s web site saying that ESPN misled athletic officials about the intent of the program.
"The request from the show’s producer was to discuss ‘policies on pregnancy at Clemson,’ " Phillips said. "Never was it discussed that pregnancy and athletic scholarships would be the focus of the show."
"Nor was it revealed to the athletic department that ESPN had obtained a copy of a document, allegedly signed by several female student-athletes that allegedly led to their seeking abortions rather than complete their unplanned pregnancies," Phillips added.
"Clemson University athletic department is disappointed with the manner in which this interview was conducted and with the tactics used by [ESPN]," he continued. "The way the interview was handled did not lend itself to a thorough and honest discussion of this critically important issue."
During the interview, the anonymous Clemson track team member said school officials told her that she would lose her scholarship because of her pregnancy.
She indicated that one official told her the coach would rescind the scholarship and told her to think about her options — a comment she interpreted as encouraging her to get an abortion to keep the financial support.
She told ESPN she ultimately decided to have an abortion due to the fact that maybe I wouldn’t get my scholarship back," and said the weight of the pressure from Clemson to get an abortion was a nine on a scale of 1 to 10.
"It had a big part in my decision because that’s the first thing I thought about, that I would lose my scholarship," the student said.
"Abortion was not something I wanted to do. I would like to have been able to have kept my scholarship, still be at Clemson and have a child," the student added.
ESPN reported that the female students at Clemson were required to sign a document similar to one at other colleges which tells students they will lose their scholarships if they get pregnant.
But Jackson told ESPN that the school doesn’t have a policy on pregnancy — a point Clemson assistant athletic director for sports information Tim Bourret agreed with in an interview with the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.
"Point No. 1 is that the policy they cited doesn’t exist anymore," Bourret told the newspaper. "And point No. 2 would be that we have never taken away someone’s scholarship for being pregnant."
Phillips added that a team rule on pregnancies was instituted in only one sport but no longer is in effect.
He said the intent of the coach who instituted it was to "influence student-athletes to make safe and responsible choices regarding sexual activity, not, as the show apparently may imply, to encourage abortions."
"It is our opinion that pregnancy would not be a valid reason for the Clemson University athletic department to cancel a student-athlete’s scholarship during the period of the award," he concluded.