Students for Life of America had strong words for a Maryland Christian high school that banned a pregnant student from walking at her graduation – a move they say will only deter women from being pro-life.
“Not allowing Maddi to walk in her graduation ceremony sends the message that being pregnant in a Christian school is an embarrassment that should be hidden away," president Kristan Hawkins wrote in a May 23 letter.
“…this example may be the turning point causing many students to turn away from the pro-life and Christian message."
The letter was sent to principal David Hobbs of Heritage Academy in Hagerstown, Maryland. The private school refused to let senior Maddi Runkles walk at her graduation due to violating a moral clause she was obligated to sign.
Eighteen-year-old Maddi had a 4.0 grade point average, was involved in her student council and other leadership programs, and played soccer.
She found out she was pregnant in January this year and entertained the idea of an abortion. However, Maddi encountered the loving support of her parents and the Christian community at her church and chose to keep the baby.
Originally, Maddi was going to be expelled from campus and placed on independent study, but the degree of punishment was lessened after her family and 25 other parents and classmates appealed to the principle in person.
Principal Hobbs had said in a statement on the school’s website that “we love Maddi Runkles," but that the “best way to love her right now is to hold her accountable for her immorality that began this situation."
According to Students for life, Hobbs was planning on telling the school that the student had broken the rules, “but Maddi didn’t want the information to go through a secondhand source."
“So instead, she voluntarily got up in front of the entire high school and tearfully told them what she did and that she was pregnant."
Even with the lessened punishment, Hawkins criticized the school board for deciding that graduation “is too great of an honor…on which to present a pregnant girl with her earned academic achievements."
Hawkins argued that the public nature of the punishment is unnecessary, given Maddi’s suspension and stripped leadership roles – as well as the sheer difficulty of pregnancy.
“It appears that the school is not satisfied that she has repented of and been held accountable for her initial offense, and that satisfaction of such only comes at a public cost."
She insisted that the public punishment will only work to shame other women who will go or are going through a similar situation. Students for Life was founded with the mission of ending the need for abortion by educating youth, engaging with the students on campuses throughout the U.S., and lobbying for campus pregnancy programs.
A study released by the Guttmacher Institute shows that over 50 percent of women who procured an abortion in 2014 consider themselves to be part of a Christian denomination – nearly half of the group identifying as Catholic.
Another study, according to Care Net, said that 76 percent of women did not feel they were able to discuss their abortion with members of their church. Additionally, 65 percent felt judged by parishioners, and 41 percent did not believe their church was prepared to counsel them through pregnancy decisions.