NCAA Moves Toward Protecting Pregnant Athletes From Needing Abortions

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 23, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

NCAA Moves Toward Protecting Pregnant Athletes From Needing Abortions Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 23,

Washington, DC ( — The NCAA has adopted a new rule to help pregnant student athletes not have to choose between having an abortion or losing their scholarship or place on a team when they become pregnant. The new rule comes after exposes that students at Clemson University and University of Memphis had abortions rather than lose their sports standing.

The Division I Management Council voted 46-5 to support a proposal that prevents schools from retracting scholarships to student athletes who become pregnant.

According to a report in the Daily Aztec, the student newspaper at San Diego State University, San Diego State assistant athletic director Mike May said the vote should solve the problem of letting each university determine its own policy.

"This is certainly something that protects the student athlete," May said. "We are all in favor of that."

"The more things you can gather to assist student athletes (the better), and this is another example of the NCAA taking a step toward doing that," he said.

The NCAA Board of Directors approved the new rule on Monday and it will go into effect starting on August 1.

Though the vote is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t resolve the debate entirely, the newspaper indicated, because it only prevents schools from revoking scholarships for the year in which the student becomes pregnant.

Colleges and universities could still yank scholarships for future years from students who become pregnant and don’t have an abortion.

A rule change didn’t appear likely after NCAA officials met this past August to discuss the problem.

Janet Kittel, the outgoing head of the NCAA’s Committee on Women’s Athletics, said NCAA director Myles Brand asked the committee to discuss the issue.

She told the Associated Press the meeting focused on how to do a better job of making students aware of their rights under the federal Title IX law.

The statute requires schools to treat a pregnancy the same way they would treat athletes with a temporary disability — by allowing for time off from the athletic program without worries about losing scholarships or spots on the team.

The new rules change on revoking scholarships will now go along with NCAA policy allowing 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 by staying in school for six years and competing for four.

The problems became a national issue when Clemson and Memphis students said they 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.

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.

Clemson later acknowledged that women’s track coach Marcia Noad gave students a policy saying, "Pregnancy resulting in the inability to compete and positively contribute to the program’s success will result in the modification of your grant-in-aid money."

However, Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips said the policy was never meant to encourage abortions but to encourage students to make responsible sexual choices.

He told AP in August that the rule “was a team rule that shouldn’t have been in there" and that no student lost scholarship money or was kicked off the team for a pregnancy.

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. According to her research, just 26 of the more than 270 Division I schools in the NCAA have any written policy.