The Notre Dame family
Angela Bermudez | Monday, February 3, 2014
In “Pro-life talk but not a pro-life ethic” (Jan. 29), Elizabeth Pfenson correctly stresses that a commitment to being pro-life encompasses support for those women and men who find themselves facing an unexpected pregnancy. While, as she mentioned in her article, funding for pregnant graduate students may be insufficient, the university offers wonderful resources for undergraduate pregnant and parenting students.
Notre Dame’s Division of Student Affairs website says “Keeping with its mission as a Catholic university, Notre Dame is committed to offering students resources that support the choice of life.” Notre Dame’s Right to Life, in striving to promote the dignity of all life, recognizes the need to support students when they find themselves in vulnerable situations.
Discussions of pregnancy resources on campus are often enveloped in a sea of myths. Students assume that pregnant students will be kicked out of Notre Dame, lose their athletic scholarships or face penalties for their violation of DuLac. Recognizing the importance of promoting pregnancy resources, ND Right to Life founded the Parenting Resources commission. Since its conception, the commission has collaborated with Student Affairs, Life Initiatives and other offices on campus that deal with pregnancy resources to increase awareness of the available resources.
In the hopes of debunking these inaccurate notions, last semester, Notre Dame’s Right to Life and Student Government sponsored a pregnancy resource panel to discuss resources that are available for pregnant, fathers-to-be and parenting students on campus. The panel featured Karen Kennedy and Ann Whitall from Student Affairs as well as Judy Madden from Campus Ministry.
All three work closely with students who find themselves pregnant or whose significant other is pregnant, to offer loving support and help them explore their options. During the presentation, Student Affairs screened a video that features the personal testimonies of past Notre Dame undergraduates who faced an unexpected pregnancy while attending Notre Dame. These former students revealed their initial anxiety about the pregnancy and fear of being ostracized, which in some cases led them to contemplate abortion, if only briefly.
Once they reached out to the University and their peers, they were surprised by the outpouring of support they received solidifying and affirming their decision to chose life. They were able to successfully raise their child and finish their education; despite the inherent obstacles this situation presents, the support of the University provided them with the necessary resources to overcome the challenges.
The message of the video is clear: Notre Dame is fully committed to helping students who find themselves facing an unexpected pregnancy and the University is blessed with an abundance of resources for these students. Unfortunately, if these resources are not communicated, students, in their vulnerable state, may feel alone and opt for a seemingly “quick solution” by choosing abortion.
In order to saves lives, both of the unborn and their parents, it is important to promote pregnancy resources and clarify some of the myths. Notre Dame does not kick out or penalize students who find themselves pregnant, but is committed to ensuring that they complete their education and will help arrange the necessary accommodations this entails. From helping students adjust their schedules, providing financial support if that is necessary and ensuring that the student’s spiritual, emotion and physical needs (and that of her/ his baby) are met. Students are allowed to remain in their dorms during the pregnancy and, once the baby is born, they have access to graduate student family houses, where they live amidst a supportive community of other parenting students. Free pregnancy tests are available at St. Liam’s and the UCC, as well as Campus Ministry’s Judy Madden and Ed Mack offer counseling support for expecting students and their significant others.
Another valuable resource for students, particularly if they feel more comfortable going off campus for support, is the Women’s Care Center, which offers loving, non-judgmental support and free counseling, free pregnancy tests, free ultrasounds and other pregnancy services and resources. For more information visit www.womenscarecenter.org.
If we call ourselves pro-life, we must be committed to not only speaking about the value of life but also acknowledging it through our actions and support. As a Notre Dame family, we must be committed to supporting our peers who are pregnant or parenting. Staying informed of the resources on campus equips us to help our friends when they feel most vulnerable. We must also resist apathy. Our perception that pregnancy does not happen on campus or will not happen to us, does not mean that is the reality. Often, this perception perpetuates the isolation that a pregnant student feels. We need to create a community where a student who finds themselves facing an unplanned pregnancy does not feel alienated or ostracized, but knows that people care.
Notre Dame Right to Life hopes to continue this discussion with a series of workshops on issues related to pregnancy and post-abortive resources, as well as supporting similar initiatives promulgated by other organizations on-campus. We also seek to expand the ways in which the graduate student population is supported. The resources are available, but often inadequately promoted. Student Affairs’ website lists the resources available for pregnant students as well as contact information for those seeking support. For more information on pregnancy resources visit pregnancysupport.nd.edu.
Angela Bermudez is a senior. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not
necessarily those of The Observer.