Pregnancy: the beautiful creation of life. It can also mean a transitionary period in life. In in some cases, like at Clemson, it also brings about the fear of losing one's scholarship. A Clemson track coach told her athletes that getting pregnant could cost them their scholarships. Talk about birth control!
The story came about after an anonymous former female athlete reported at least seven former and current athletes who had abortions rather than risk losing their scholarships. This anonymous athlete was one of the seven herself.
On the school's athletic website, athletic director Terry Don Phillips said that coach Marcia Noad had included the following clause as part of the team's written rules:
"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. Please consult your coaching staff immediately to discuss."
To save face, Phillips claimed the intent was to allow the athletes to make "safe and responsible choices regarding sexual activity," rather than pressuring athletes to get abortions in order to keep their scholarships.
"Pregnancy would not be a valid reason for the Clemson University athletic department to cancel a student-athlete's scholarship during the period of renewal," Phillips said in the statement.
The pregnancy clause was removed from the team guidelines before the Fall '06 season, and was limited to the track team only. And while no athletes did lose their scholarships due to pregnancy, it's clear the fear of such created enough damage.
The issue of pregnancy in women's athletics is obviously a huge issue. As women's sports rises up towards the level of men's sports, pregnancy will always be an inequality of sorts towards women athletes. Women athletes will always have to be making the choice of building a family over that of building a career. In most occupations it's feasible, in sports it's unlikely. We've seen such with Lisa Leslie, and Syracuse hoopster Fantasia Goodwin, who played an entire season pregnant, giving birth two months after her season ended. In her case she hid her pregnancy from the team.
This issue will come up time and time again, but it's clear the solution lies nowhere near that proscribed by Clemson's track coach.