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The need to serve pregnant women on college campuses

An interview about Baby Steps at Auburn University

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October 5, 2022

College campuses are places full of big dreams for the future. Young men and women often go to university expectant of what doors their education will open for them. Yet, some of those women become pregnant and find themselves facing uncertainty and fear about what’s ahead. They feel as if they have to choose between life for their child or a completed college degree. That’s where Baby Steps, an organization serving pregnant women on Auburn University’s campus, enters in and enables them to parent and finish their degrees. While Baby Steps isn’t faith based, they welcome people of faith as volunteers, among others, and are an example of those whose work Christians recognize as being consistent with a biblical ethic of human dignity. A member of Baby Steps’ staff answers questions below about this unique organization that’s doing incredible work with moms and their children. 

Kadin Christian: Baby Steps is an organization with an incredible idea—serve pregnant moms on a college campus. What is the story behind how Baby Steps began? And what does the organization hope to accomplish?

Baby Steps Staff: Baby Steps was founded by Michelle Schultz (now the Executive Director) and opened our doors on Auburn’s Campus in 2017. Michelle found herself in an unplanned pregnancy her junior year at Auburn University. In a moment of uncertainty and fear that “her world had ended,” she chose to terminate her pregnancy. She thought there was no way she could be pregnant and finish school. That decision affected her life greatly for many years, and she began recognizing there was an overlooked, isolated population of people in desperate need of support. There was a need to help college women in unplanned pregnancies that wasn’t being met at Auburn University or on other campuses around the country. 

Her first of many affirmations that Baby Steps was needed at Auburn was when she met Kaitlyn Willing, now Director of Operations, in the spring of 2013. In a moment of doubt that Baby Steps was really what Michelle was being called to do, Kaitlyn came into her life. Kaitlyn discovered that she was unexpectedly pregnant in August 2011, also as a junior at Auburn University. She shared the same fear Michelle had experienced almost 30 years ago—the fear that her life was over. While Kaitlyn decided to parent her child and finish her degree, the lack of support at Auburn University made graduating almost impossible.

Once she was presented with the idea of helping build Baby Steps, those past experiences lit a fire within her to see to it that no woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy on Auburn’s campus did it alone. She did not have the support that Baby Steps currently provides student-moms and confidently claims, “I couldn’t think of anything else I could’ve possibly needed or wanted more than Baby Steps.” 

Although very different, Kaitlyn’s and Michelle’s journeys continue to be the inspiration that fuels Baby Steps’ desire to create a place where young women can thrive, having their baby and their education.

KC: Is your organization considered a pregnancy resource center? If not, what are the differences? 

BSS: Baby Steps is not a pregnancy resource center. PRCs offer women pregnancy confirmation and resources on their options. Baby Steps does not provide any medical care or pregnancy decision counseling. Student-moms that reach out to us have typically already decided they want to parent their baby and stay in school, and they need our help in order to succeed in that.

KC: What are some of the unique aspects of serving college women and a specific university campus? Do you have any insights between the correlation of unplanned pregnancy and completing a college degree? 

BSS: Twelve percent of college students report either experiencing or being involved in an unplanned pregnancy. Some experts say that this number may be closer to 23%. According to these statistics, it should be much more common to see pregnant students walking their campus halls and concourses. Why is this not the case? Judgment and stigma leave them feeling isolated and unsupported with no safe place to turn. They do not believe they can have both their baby and their education. We are here to change that culture on college campuses. Baby Steps is the safe place where student-moms are not defined by their circumstances but are empowered to thrive in all areas of their lives, especially as students and mothers.

KC: What are the specific services that Baby Steps provides? And how many women and children are you typically serving at any given time?

BSS: Baby Steps serves two types of student-moms. Some of them actually live on Baby Steps’ property, and others are just a part of our social community.

Resident student-moms:

Baby Steps provides the following for pregnant and parenting college women living in the Baby Steps home at no cost to them

Community student-moms:

Baby Steps provides the following for pregnant and parenting college women not living in the Baby Steps home at no cost to them

We typically serve anywhere from 8-15 student-moms and their “Tiny Tigers” at a time.

KC: With the historic overturning of Roe and the question of abortion returning to each individual state, how do you anticipate organizations like yours will be affected? And how do you expect the women and children you serve to be affected? 

BSS: Baby Steps is a non faith-based 501C3 nonprofit that is not affiliated with any religious or political agenda, so for us what we do is not political. Our mission is strictly to serve the student-mom and baby that is in front of us, giving her all the tools necessary to graduate from college and succeed in life. Our goal is to change the culture of our response as a society to unplanned pregnancies on college campuses. 

In this day in time, politics and religion can be seen as very divisive. We don’t want to add to that division in any way, so Baby Steps steers clear of putting ourselves in any boxes that might cause people to think we have intentions other than empowering student-moms to have their education and their babies. We’re proud to be an organization that can bring people together who while potentially having many different opinions and views, can say as a collective voice, “We stand behind student-moms pursuing their education.”

Our doors are open wide to students experiencing unplanned pregnancies, no matter what their background or personal views are. 

KC: Has Baby Steps been negatively affected or targeted since the Dobbs decision? And has it changed how you go about providing your services? 

BSS: Since the Dobbs decision, Baby Steps has seen an increase of involvement on both sides of the political spectrum, wanting to support what Baby Steps does, not only locally on Auburn’s campus but on future campuses around the nation. This momentum has been key to helping us launch our National Initiative that is working on bringing Baby Steps to as many college campuses as possible. We are excited to announce our next campus will be Baby Steps at University of Central Florida.

KC: Christians, who we represent, are known as a pro-life people who value all of life because we believe God created us in his image. How can individual Christians and local churches help support the work of places like Baby Steps?

BSS: One of the most beautiful parts of Baby Steps is our wide array of supporters. Our mission and vision clearly align with many different views and backgrounds people possess. There is such beauty in being a part of a movement that is supported by groups of people that may not have the same beliefs but can find solace in supporting student-moms and their babies. If our mission aligns with your views, we would love you to join us in changing history! Please visit our website babysteps.org to find ways you can get plugged in, or simply stay in touch with our movement on social media “Baby Steps at Auburn University”.

Photo Attribution:

babysteps.org

Kadin Christian

Kadin Christian serves in an administrative assistant role at the ERLC, working primarily with the Office of the President, but also in a more general capacity in the Nashville office. An Alabama native, Kadin previously served as an intern with the ERLC, and then continued working under the leadership of … Read More