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Bread of Life Dinner discusses pregnant students

| Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture hosted its semi-annual Bread of Life Dinner Tuesday evening in the Morris Inn. Senior Erin Stoyell-Mulholland who helped plan and run the event, said the dinner is an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to interact with faculty and have conversations about issues related to the protection and support of life in the context of a brief lecture. Tuesday’s lecture featured speaker was Erin Hoffmann Harding, vice president for student affairs, who spoke on the topic of “Promoting a Culture of Life at Notre Dame.”

Hoffmann Harding said she wanted to start by dispelling the notion that Notre Dame imposes disciplinary action on pregnant students — a myth she said she has heard repeated by many people across campus from students to hall staff.

“This issue is one of our biggest challenges and something I am particularly passionate about,” Hoffmann Harding said.

Hoffmann Harding said Notre Dame offers a wide variety of tools to help with planned and unplanned pregnancies, in particular designated pregnancy support advocates, a pregnant and parenting student assistance fund and educational online resources.

“As a Catholic university, Notre Dame is committed to life and to offering students resources that support the choice of life,” Hoffmann Harding said.

Students can anonymously receive pregnancy tests through University Health Services or the local Women’s Care Center if they are uncomfortable with turning to an official school organization, Hoffmann Harding said. She also said that Notre Dame takes pains to include males in the pregnancy support process, especially since the fathers are often students themselves.

The question of where students can find help is crucial, Hoffmann Harding said, and options range from the emotional and spiritual support of Saint Liam’s counseling services, campus ministry and hall staff to monetary assistance from the office of financial aid.

“We must be empathetic, non-judgemental and good listeners,” Hoffmann Harding said. “We want to support the choice of life.”

Hoffmann Harding showed a video produced by Notre Dame, which showcased the stories of former students who had unexpectedly become pregnant while they were undergraduates in school. The students spoke about the initial fear and uncertainty they experienced, but also talked about how they were able to successfully finish their educations and form families with the support of the university.

There was an informal question and answer session after the talk finished and the discussion primarily focused on raising student awareness of the issue available help for unplanned pregnancies. Suggestions from the audience included placing informational posters on pregnancy support resources in the bathrooms of resident halls in similar manner to how Georgetown University advertises their own pregnancy assistance program.

Hoffmann Harding said the University is continually looking for new ways to improve their support for pregnant students and she appreciates recommendations and ideas from students and faculty.

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