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Irish 4 Reproductive Health promotes contraception access at Notre Dame

| Wednesday, February 28, 2018

In response to changes in the University’s contraceptive coverage policy, students have organized to advocate for contraception access on campus, forming the new group, Irish 4 Reproductive Health (I4RH).

“We want to, as it says in our mission statement, allow members of our community and enable them, regardless of gender, regardless of class, to get the health care — specifically reproductive health care — that they need,” sophomore Anne Jarrett said. “We also want to foster a dialogue on campus about these issues because we believe in reproductive health for all members of the community and their own agency in deciding the best way to be healthy.”

I4RH is a “non-hierarchical” group, independent of Notre Dame, according to its mission statement.  While it has received support from national organizations, including Planned Parenthood, I4RH is also independent of these groups, members said.

“I think that’s one of the strengths of our group, that we’re coming from a very unique position as students and members of the Notre Dame community,” senior Becca Fritz said. “And so in that way, our actions and our views and opinions aren’t related necessarily to those of national organizations [but] we’re grateful for their support.”

In order to spark conversations about reproductive healthcare, members of the group have written letters to the editor published in The Observer. I4RH has also distributed around condoms with definitions of consent attached at Main Circle on campus.

“We’re looking forward to the opportunity to again, engage in discussion with the administration,” Fritz said. “We’re hopeful that this can create some kind of dialogue about how the decisions have been largely made from the top, so allowing the voices that are most affected by these decisions to be in conversation with the ones at the top who are [making] the decisions.”

Senior Natasha Reifenberg said she believes I4RH’s mission aligns with aspects of Catholic Social Teaching regarding workers’ rights.

“This a point where we could bring up a core tenet of Catholic Social Teaching which is to embrace labor unions and embrace the rights of workers to engage and challenge management of issues of core concern to employees’ wellbeing,” she said. “And we think that those principles have not been prioritized the way that they should be in the process by which decisions have been made.”

Jarrett said widespread access to reproductive healthcare is important because of the medical issues one could face.

“I know for myself, I have an [intrauterine device] and without that IUD I would not be able to attend this University because I would pass out for about a week every single month,” she said. “And I am a Catholic. … The way that I decide my own moral decisions and make these moral decisions is the way that I practice my faith.”

Even within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, there is disagreement about contraception use, Reifenberg said, and Notre Dame should facilitate discussion surrounding this issue.

“I believe that it hasn’t fully lived up to that responsibility by failing to open up a larger dialogue about higher order principles of moral autonomy, decreasing rates of abortion and infant mortality and maternal mortality and how that can be connected to access to contraception,” she said. “This is a long overdue debate and it would be so wonderful to see Notre Dame opening up avenues for conversations like these but instead, what we’ve seen the administration do is close these avenues.”



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About Natalie Weber

Natalie is a sophomore majoring in English with minors in Journalism, Ethics & Democracy and Computing & Digital Technologies. She serves as News Editor at The Observer and is a native of Western Colorado.

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