Historic first: Catholic college building residence for single pregnant women

It’s happening at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina.


It was a summer of romance and fear.

A bittersweet mix that cast a long shadow through the years. One that Debbie Capen, 37, of Charlotte will remember today at the groundbreaking for what is believed the nation’s first college-based maternity and after-care residential facility for single pregnant women.

The home is being built on the campus of Belmont Abbey College and will be run by the Charlotte-based Catholic nonprofit Room at the Inn, a safe haven for single pregnant women. The organization’s outreach programs and offices will remain in Charlotte.

During today’s ceremony, Capen will recall the summer she was a rising sophomore at Winthrop University and waiting tables at North Myrtle Beach restaurants.

A fling with a handsome beach service worker stirred images of sailing off together on his catamaran. But the dream faded when she became pregnant. Afraid to tell her mother and worried about the possibility of having to drop out of college, she couldn’t find an adult who understood.

“I felt utterly alone,” said Capen. “I felt I had no other choice but abortion.”

The experience of having an abortion was negative – something Capen wanted to forget but couldn’t. Since then, Capen has tried to help other women going through the same thing.

The 10,000-square-foot home going up in eastern Gaston County at Belmont Abbey on four acres of land donated by the Benedictine monks is the kind of haven Capen didn’t have when she found herself in trouble as a teen. The Belmont Abbey project was spurred by a national survey that found facilities and services for pregnant women were needed on college campuses. The home will allow women to continue their educations and have babies.

“I’m really joyful to be part of a project that’s taking concrete action to help other women just like me,” said Capen, now assistant director of Room at the Inn. “It will help people to see that a pregnancy is not an end – it’s a beginning.”

Read the rest.


  1. Wow, with so many amenities, why marry?

  2. This is a beautiful, life-affirming proposal.

  3. Yes–Allison said it!

  4. I had the honor of being present at this groundbreaking. It is the culmination of a wonderful idea and much hard work. The Holy Spirit is at work at Belmont Abbey and I believe Room at the Inn will save lives. As someone who has worked in a university most of my adult life, I can attest that the demographics are shifting and the abortion rate among college age women is a tragedy. I too wish these young women had the faith and confidence to never engage in sex outside of marriage, but once a child is conceived, an option such is this is the best possible option for preventing an abortion. Let us pray that other Catholic institutions wil consider following this example.

  5. Fiergenholt says:

    If any folks look up the history of the Ursuline Sisters, you will realize they were originally created to serve the large number of unwed mothers in that era. Those sisters were midwives and the equivalent of home health aides and home-making mentors.

    Quite a difference between them and modern Ursulines. I would have been far more impressed with this story if that religious community would have returned to their original chartered charism and were the ones who took the initiative here.

  6. ron chandonia says:

    This is the sort of thing Feminists for Life have been promoting in their very successful effort to reach out to colleges and college students. Most often, college infirmaries today (including those at Catholic schools) will routinely refer pregnant coeds to Planned Parenthood branches located just off campus. This facility is a visible sign of a far more profoundly human and profoundly Christian response to the situation.

  7. May God bless this work.

  8. pagansister says:

    Great way to prevent abortions. Alternatives are always good.

  9. I guess it’s a good idea if it keeps one child from being aborted but single motherhood should not be promoted.

  10. pagansister says:

    dymphna, #9: Providing a place to go to for care before and after an accidental pregnancy happens would not be promoting single motherhood. However I would also hope they wouldn’t push the women to give their children up for adoption in order to prevent a “single mother” situation. IMO, a child is better off with their birth mother IF it is possible. Each case would naturally be different with regard to adoption or the mother keeping her baby.

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