Pregnant women who come to the University Health Services (UHS) are advised how to make independent reproductive decisions, not simply informed how to get an abortion, a social worker at the health services told a student group last night.
Nadja B. Gould, who has been a clinical social worker at UHS for fifteen years, talked about her work helping women who seek pregnancy counselling at a Harvard-Radcliffe Students for Choice meeting last night in the Ticknor Lounge.
"Many pregnant students seem pressured to have an abortion," Gould said. "We're here to help women choose what and how they want to do, not to recommend one thing or the other."
Gould said she is happy to see a decrease in the amount of unplanned pregnancies at Harvard. Last year 25 undergraduates--down from 50 eight years ago--became pregnant and had abortions, she said. Of the 115 faculty, staff and students seen at UHS last year, approximately 95 percent chose to terminate their pregnancy, she said.
"Women often want to explore the philosophical, medical and spiritual aspects of terminating a pregnancy," Gould said. "It's not just like pulling a tooth."
Many pregnant women come to UHS fervently pro-choice, she said, but later hesitate before aborting "the child that is now growing inside of them."
Gould said women sometimes dream of holding and nurturing a child. Many experience anger about consenting to sex without contraceptives or with faulty contraception, she said.
"Some cry and wish to talk about all their pains and griefs," Gould said, "while others simply wish to have the operation without discussing it at all."
Gould also described what she called a relatively easy legal process for pregnant minors in Massachusetts who want to obtain an abortion without parental consent. Typically, the legal procedure consists of a private consultation with a judge, Gould said.
But she added that those minors who do seek parental consent are often relieved and surprised by the reaction. "Most [minors] often find that their parents are more caring and helpful than they might have anticipated," Gould said.