Pregnant women find help on campus

by Nina Petersen-Perlman

A woman holding a positive pregnancy test has plenty to consider.

Especially if she’s a student.

Should she keep the baby? Can she afford to keep the baby and stay in school? Who can she talk to about the pregnancy?

There are several places on and close to campus that can help her make decisions.


Though Choices is a Lutheran-based pregnancy counseling center, all faiths are welcome to go there, said event coordinator Valerie Johnson.

“Our mission is primarily to help men and women mainly with pregnancy concerns, but also relationship issues,” Johnson said.

Located in the Dinkydome next to True North Campus Ministry for about three years, one of Choice’s biggest draws is that it offers free pregnancy tests.

All of Choices’ counselors are volunteers, and about half are students.

“We’re here to share information, but we’re by no means experts,” Johnson said.

Some people come in wanting counseling advice, though many come in for the tests, she said. Since Choices is not a medical facility, the women who take advantage of the services have to take the pregnancy tests themselves. If a woman discovers she’s pregnant, Choices will counsel her on options.

“It’s basically just talking back and forth about all three options (abortion, adoption or keeping the baby),” Johnson said. “We ask what they’re thinking about.”

Choices does not refer women to abortion clinics, Johnson said.

It instead offers information about prenatal care and adoption, refers pregnant women to health specialists if they choose to carry the child to term and helps them apply for state health insurance if they need it.

If a woman keeps the child and would like assistance, Choices has a personal needs program called Steppin’ Up to help.

“Some women have physical needs, like furniture, baby clothes or formula,” Johnson said. “But a lot of times there’s a bigger thing going on. We all have baggage. This is a way for them to assess their lives.”

The initial class is an evaluation to help the women set goals. After the first class, they can start getting items they requested, all of which are donated to Christian Life Ministries in Little Canada, Choice’s Lutheran parent organization.

Shelly Farley, Life Center director, declined to compare her organization with Planned Parenthood because, she said, the organization is too controversial and political.

“The main difference between us and other centers is that we offer more than a typical center,” Farley said. “We offer spiritual counseling, and we can answer questions about the Bible and faith.”

Both Johnson and Farley emphasized that they only share religious information if asked.

“We always ask if they want to hear about Jesus,” Johnson said. “If we can, we share our faith and gospel if they want to hear it.”

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood, at 1200 Lagoon Ave. S. in Uptown, which is staffed by nurse practitioners, offers counseling on pregnant women’s options, prenatal care, adoption and termination, said Marta Coursey, director of marketing and communication.

Although these are not the only services it provides, “a majority of what we do is health counseling for reproductive health care,” she said.

The difference between Planned Parenthood and other counseling places, Coursey said, is that it gives people all their options without judgment.

“What we say is there is no shame in any decisions you have to make,” she said. “There is no value put on if it’s a sin or not a sin, a good thing or a bad thing.”

Though there is no charge for options counseling, there is a cost for the pregnancy tests, Coursey said. It can range from $9 to $16, depending on whether it’s being paid for by insurance or on a sliding scale.

If a woman chooses to have an abortion, she can go to the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Paul or can be referred to another facility, such as one in Meadowbrook.

She must wait the state-mandated 24 hours before the operation can be performed. In that time she will get information about the medical risks, the probable gestation age of the fetus, medical assistance and an extensive review of printed material, Coursey said.

If people don’t want insurance to cover the cost, they can pay for themselves based on a sliding scale, she said.

Student Parent Help Center

Located in the basement of Appleby Hall, the Student Parent Help Center provides services to University students who have children. The center helps expecting parents and parents with children to graduate.

Susan Warfield, a licensed social worker and the program’s director, said that if a woman brings in proof of pregnancy, she can sign up for medical insurance within 48 hours so she can receive prenatal care.

“We make sure they have the care they need,” Warfield said. “We try to be a one-stop resource center for them.”

Once women have their children and decide to keep them, the center will assist in finding day care and give parents grants.

Electra Rich, a creative writing senior, credits the center with helping her graduate. She said she uses its computers and printers for materials she needs for class.

“I’ve gone to the Wednesday student-parent lunch groups through the years,” she said. “I found it very helpful and comforting.”

Sociology sophomore Nancy Lee is eight months pregnant with her second child and has received a child care grant through the center. She said the program directors came with her to visit day cares in the area.

“I don’t think I could live without them,” she said. “I’m there every day.”

Warfield said approximately 580 students in the program graduated between 1994 and 2005.

“Our program is unique in the country,” Warfield said. “Very few programs have licensed social workers.”

The center is based in the General College and receives all its funding from the college, although the center helps students from all colleges within the University, Warfield said.

She said the center is still waiting to hear answers from a University realignment task force as to whether the center will survive when the General College is dissolved.

“Lots of young single moms depend on us,” she said. “It’s devastating.”

Other services

This is in no way a comprehensive list of places a woman can go to get pregnancy and child care counseling, and other services.

Other places on campus include the Aurora Center in Boynton Health Service for those who have been sexually abused and University Counseling and Consulting Services in Eddy Hall and Coffey Hall.

All three organizations can refer students to additional resources.