Letter to the Editor: Pregnancy is not a disease

Kayla Roesner is the president of Tulane University Right to Life. Renee Trepagnier is a member of TURTL and a Newcomb Scholar.

It is a marvel that one can walk around the great campus of Tulane University and rarely encounter a pregnant student. Out of the 14,062 undergraduates, graduates and professionals on Tulane’s campus, I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen a pregnant student. 

Despite their rare sightings, certainly more students experience pregnancy and choose to carry their pregnancy to term, however, why would any pregnant student voluntarily stay in school or carry their pregnancy to term on a campus that exudes hostility and pregnancy stigmatization?

Tulane Students United for Reproductive Justice (SURJ)’s new partnership with the Reproductive Justice Action Collection (ReJAC) brings to light the underlying problem of the university’s stigmatization and lack of resources for pregnant women. 

An Intersections article highlighted SURJ’s new contraceptive program on campus.

The vocabulary SURJ and its partners use suggests that pregnancy is a disease that is meant to be terminated at first diagnosis. The use of the word “emergency” for emergency contraceptives implies that becoming pregnant is akin to a serious medical issue that must be treated immediately. 

The Chemist 4U ad in the original Hullabaloo article illustrates that Plan B and other contraceptives “reduces risk of pregnancy.” Not the risks of pregnancy—such as common, normal complications during pregnancy like high blood pressure and gestational diabetes—but rather the risk of pregnancy, as if pregnancy itself is a hazard or a threat. 

This approach to life and pregnancy is disrespectful and degrading. Pregnancy brings into the world a human being, as embryology proves. In the University of Utah Medical School’s online embryology tutorial, the first sentences state: “A human begins life as a fertilized ovum. This single cell gives rise to the millions of cells that form the human body.”

Labeling pregnancy as an emergency implies that the resulting human life is an inconvenience and meaningless in this world.

Imagine the damage these ramifications may produce on Tulane’s campus. This initiative sends the message that one must be young and childless to be educated on Tulane’s campus. 

It suggests that pregnant students on Tulane’s campus are sick, plagued with an incurable disease that prevents them from academic success and social extracurriculars. This mentality and the advertisement propagation create a harsh environment devoid of basic human recognition and value. 

Everyone goggles at the cute children on McAlister Drive but shrinks back with horror at the idea of pregnant students in the classroom or library. Pregnancy on campus most likely brings shame and embarrassment because no one wants their pregnancy to be associated with an urgent medical issue. 

Students then become peer-pressured to drop out of school when their pregnancy is noticeable, or in unfortunate cases, terminate the fetus’s life through abortion.

While SURJ is attempting to uphold Tulane women’s dignity by providing the Morning After Pill — which is commendable as we should support each other’s dignity — the underlying message becomes “Tulane women are not strong enough or capable enough to continue their educations if they are pregnant.” 

This message leads to a disempowering rejection of the Tulane students’ dignity.

As a society, we celebrate women and men who are single parents — those who go back to school and work a full-time job while maintaining a caring home for their children. 

Our society criticizes those who do not support private agencies and government programs helping those striving to better themselves, their lives and their children’s lives. Yet, the idea of supporting a pregnant woman who is not married is unthinkable. 

This mentality perpetuates the stereotype that women must be supported by someone else to succeed. SURJ’s message fails to express total female empowerment and human dignity despite their hard work to implement this program and their prior work on Tulane’s campus. 

Their message unconsciously perpetuates an unwelcoming environment for pregnant women.

Tulane University students, faculty and staff should be working to support women’s dignity and worth no matter their situation. Telling women that they are incapable of succeeding unless they are childless is not the way to support them.