Every Woman's What If

Chaunie Brusie, clad in a tasteful black dress and pumps, addressed a small crowd arranged in a semi-circle in a corner room on the fourth floor of the Curry Student Center. The petite young blonde is soft-spoken, but deliberate in her message.  “I want to be clear, I am not here to judge or condemn,” said the college outreach coordinator for the Feminists For Life group. True to her word, Brusie, a self-proclaimed pro-life activist, did not criticize or denounce those who identify with a pro-choice stance on abortion.  Instead, she spoke urgently about a need for resources on college campuses for pregnant students.

In Brusie’s senior year of college, the 21-year old student found herself crying in her kitchen at two o’clock in the morning, staring at two tiny blue lines fashioned in the shape of a plus sign, as if there were anything “positive” about the situation she now found herself in.  After convincing herself that an over the counter pregnancy test couldn’t possibly be accurate, Brusie turned to her college’s health center for confirmation and support.  When the pregnancy test administered by the student health center also came back positive, Brusie broke down sobbing in front of the doctor. The doctor ignored her visibly distraught patient, first by flipping through a chart and then abruptly dismissing herself to see other patients. “There was one other student there that day,” Brusie said. “He had a cough.”

And so, while already experiencing an unapologetic range of emotions, from outright fear to confusion to distress, that accompanies an unplanned pregnancy, Brusie now felt glaringly alone as well. Afraid to approach her extremely religious parents, and with no other options offered to her from her college, Brusie considered terminating her pregnancy. “Abortion absolutely crossed my mind,” she said.  After an agonizing decision process that ultimately lead to the decision to keep her baby, Brusie began a journey that can offer a new perspective on the issue of abortion. “Abortion is not a free choice,” she said. “It is a lack of other choices.”

Outlining the main reasons that young, unmarried college students choose abortion (namely a lack of finances and personal support), Brusie asserts that if certain, necessary resources were available on college campuses, women might think twice about all of their options. Brusie was dismayed to learn of the lack of financial support or personal aid her college could not, or did not, offer her as a pregnant student. Often, pregnant women sporting a bare ring finger are compartmentalized and filed under stereotypes that are unfair and unjustified. “It is assumed that when you are young, unmarried, and pregnant, you are ignorant.” As a feminist, Brusie steadfastly believes that women can succeed as mothers, students, and professionals. Though the road to success is admittedly daunting for a student mother or young professional, the burden can become substantially lighter when there are institutions in place that provide some sense of stability for pregnant students.

At Northeastern, the number of resources available to pregnant students is limited at best.  For instance, there is no family housing on campus, no lactation rooms for breastfeeding, and no diaper changing stations. There is daycare, but it is only available for children over the age of two years and nine months, not exactly ideal for the parents of newborns. In addition to the unrealistic age requirement, there is an additional cost of $225 a week. There are 30 spots available at Northeastern’s daycare center, most of which are typically allotted to the children of faculty and staff members. Another issue at hand is a nonflexible class schedule. Courses that would be most convenient for student parents, such as weekend or evening class times, are not available. Telecommuting is an option, but only for pre-requisite courses that aren’t major-specific. One crucial resource Northeastern does have, however, is maternity coverage for pregnant students and their child.

Chaunie Brusie is not the fire and brimstone type. She isn’t throwing red paint on women at Planned Parenthood, or sabotaging pro-choice campaigns. She is simply calling for awareness and for options. “Changes on campus don’t have to be drastic, time consuming, or expensive,” she insists.  Creating a pregnant and parenting website at your college, streamlining counseling to improve the ways pregnant women are treated, and setting up student parent support groups are just a few ways in which Brusie brought about change on her own campus. They are ways, she insists, that pro-life and pro-choice groups can work together to bring resources to their college or university.

On Thursday, March 24 the Northeastern Right to Life group placed flags on Centennial Commons. Each flag represented 1,000 abortions in the United States. Photo courtesy of Jessica Leary's twitter (JessicaALeary)

Lauryn is a senior at Northeastern University majoring in journalism. She has written for Boston.com as well as the HC branch at Northeastern. Lauryn is also a teaching assistant for International Affairs students at Northeastern. In May and June of 2011, she embarked on a reporting trip to the Middle East, where she mastered the art of "man on the street" reporting and gained a new appreciation for falafel. In her spare time, Lauryn enjoys writing, walking around Boston aimlessly, traveling and a unhealthy obsession with her Kindle. She loves eating, French bulldogs and Anderson Cooper. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in foreign correspondence or magazine journalism. You can follow her on Twitter @laurynpaiva.