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U. provides array of resources for students considering abortion

As the nation remains embroiled in a debate over abortion rights, Brown students are being provided with a wide array of abortion resources, including medical consultation, referral services and the opportunity to engage in open debate.

A student who believes she might be pregnant can make an appointment with Health Services for a pregnancy test. Depending on the results, the doctor will discuss her options with her, including abortion, adoption, the RU-486 abortion pill and emergency contraceptive pills, said Jennifer Cherry, a health educator at Health Services.

"A lot of times students come in here and they already know what they want, and in most cases it's choosing the abortion, just based on where they are in their life right now," Cherry said.

For additional support and advice, a student who is struggling with her options can talk with health educators like Cherry, speak with counselors from Psychological Services or consult members of the clergy in the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life.

Health Services is also proactive in providing students with information on sexual health and family planning. Health educators visit first-year units to talk about contraception and abortion, and Brown provides reading materials in the form of table-slips and pamphlets. Women's Peer Counselors associated with first-year units may also assist students who think they might be pregnant.

Psych Services, Health Services and the Chaplains' Office all adhere to strict confidentiality policies. Health Services is bound by federal regulations governing medical privacy, so medical records will not be released without a student's consent.

However, the bills that insurance companies send to parents present a possible obstacle to ensuring students' privacy. "If they're going to get a pregnancy test and don't want parents to know, students should take those companies' billing practices into mind," Cherry said.

Students who decide to terminate their pregnancies are referred by Health Services to a local abortion clinic, such as Planned Parenthood in Providence or the Women's Medical Center in Cranston. According to Cherry, these clinics also provide patients with counseling in order to answer any questions they may have.

According to the Rev. Janet Cooper Nelson, the University chaplain, the Chaplains' Office has a team of associate chaplains representing many different faiths that are available to counsel students on abortion in the context of their particular beliefs.

"Anyone seeking counsel from a chaplain will find that their individual needs and convictions are at the center of our focus, as we strive to be useful in helping them craft a way to proceed that honors and protects both integrity and conviction," Cooper Nelson wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

Psych Services declined to comment on how it assists students dealing with a pregnancy.

According to Students for Life coordinator Sean Rum-schik '06, his group met with the director of Psych Services two years ago to discuss the adequacy of counseling services for students who have already had an abortion and may be at risk of "post-abortive syndrome," a form of post-traumatic stress syndrome that anti-abortion groups have ar-gued is found in some women who have terminated their pregnancies.

Rumschik said part of his group's mission is to examine the issue of abortion "through dialogue, forums and education." He said 60 percent of the group's members are women.

Last semester the group hosted Associate Professor of Medicine Timothy Flanigan, who gave a talk titled "Can a Brown Medical School Professor Really Be Pro-Life?" Rumschik characterized the group's activities as non-adversarial and apolitical, saying the group does not engage in any protests.

However, Students for Life also focuses on issues other than abortion. "We're a social justice group, so we're also committed to ending the death penalty, ending euthanasia, ending abortion, ending the exploitation of human embryonic stem cells. We work to promote a culture of life and a respect for life," Rumschik said.

On the other end of the spectrum is Students for Choice, which tries to promote women's reproductive rights by raising awareness and lobbying local and national leaders.

Students for Choice had representatives on the Main Green Friday trying to get students to sign petitions asking Sen. Lincoln Chafee '75, R-R.I., to support the elimination of government funding for crisis pregnancy centers, which Students for Choice representatives said provide misleading information to pregnant women in order to dissuade them from considering abortion.

Students for Choice also participates in a volunteer program in which students travel to local abortion clinics and escort patients from their cars to the clinic. Protesters often stand outside the clinics taunting patients.

"I have friends who have been escorting when there were 100 Catholic schoolgirls that are 12 and 13 years old walking in front of the clinic in protest," said Jennifer Keighley '06, a Students for Choice coordinator. "There are always protesters; it usually tends to be older white males that are out there every morning. Sometimes the protesters sing songs that women can hear when in the clinics, and many times they will try to engage patients who are walking inside," she said.

Escorts do not go through any training, Keighley said, as they are simply walking people from their cars to the clinic's doors. A veteran escort is always present to help new volunteers. There are usually about four escorts as well as a police officer, who stays on guard in order to stave off confrontation.

Keighley said Students for Choice is currently very active because students feel that women's abortion rights may be threatened now that President Bush has had the opportunity to appoint two Supreme Court justices.

Keighley said the group maintains a broad focus and is not currently lobbying the University because it is satisfied with the resources Brown provides.

Other institutions, however, are limited in their abilities to provide students with information about abortion. Prov-idence College, which is a Catholic school administered by Dominican Friars, by policy does not inform students about the option of abortion.

"Any advice that we give patients has to go within the confines of the teaching of the Catholic Church. We do provide pregnancy tests, but we cannot consult on abortion," said Barbara Fletcher, a nurse at Providence College Health Services.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1.6 percent of women ages 15-44 have an abortion each year, with women between 20 and 24 years of age accounting for one-third of all abortions. According to Cherry, 44 percent of American women will have had at least one abortion by the age of 45. Statistics specific to Brown were not available.


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