by Steven Ertelt
May 24, 2007
Memphis, TN (LifeNews.com) — After several colleges came under fire for revoking the scholarships of student athletes who become pregnant, which pressured them into having abortions, the NCAA says it plans to review its policies. The college athletic organization says its women in sports committee will review the problem.
Janet Kittell, the head of the NCAA’s committee on women’s athletics, told the Associated Press that her panel will hold a hearing on the issue in July
"We want to act judiciously here," Kittell told AP. "I don’t think it calls for emergency legislation, but I think it calls for a thorough discussion and thoughtful response."
The problems came to light after ESPN did an investigative story on how students at the University of Memphis and Clemson University lost scholarships over their pregnancies. The report included interviews with seven Clemson University students who said they felt coerced into having abortions to keep the athletic money.
Kittell, an associate athletic director at Indiana University, said she did not expect any actions taken against the two colleges over the situations there.
"I would never approve of, sanction or defend that process," she said.
Typically colleges and universities do not have formal rules on pregnancy and scholarships, which leaves many students confused as to what will happen should they become pregnant. Some students wind up making decisions based only on verbal threats or promises that may have no weight.
"If it’s not written down, you really don’t have a policy," Melissa Harwood-Rom, an associate athletic director at the University of Arkansas, said. Her school recently put a policy on paper that is considered the first of its kind.
The NCAA has no general rules on how colleges should treat pregnant athletes but it 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.
Elizabeth Sorensen, an associate professor of nursing at Wright State University in Ohio, has been leading a new movement to protect the rights of pregnant athletes. She told AP that the NCAA’s policy is "vague, insufficient, ineffective, whatever word you want to put there."
According to her research, just 26 of the more than 270 Division I schools in the NCAA have any written policy
Sorenson told the Associated Press that NCAA member colleges review scholarships annually and that they must follow Title IX federal law about unequal treatment based on gender.
"What do they do for males who impregnate women when they’re in college?" Sorensen said. "I don’t think these athletic departments are running these policies by their own university lawyers. They must treat pregnancy as a temporary disabling condition, just like a knee injury or something."