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Contraception advocacy group petitions Jenkins

| Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Irish 4 Reproductive Health (I4RH), an on-campus group at Notre Dame advocating for accessibility to all forms of FDA-approved contraception, submitted a petition Monday to University President Fr. John Jenkins asking for clarification on several points related to recent University policy changes regarding contraception.

Sophomore Anne Jarrett, a member of I4RH, said in an email the petition was created with the hope of addressing ambiguous portions of the University’s policies.

“The petition calls for an end to the ambiguity concerning the several changes to the University’s policy on health care which relates to birth control, IVF and contraception,” she said. “We believe students deserve to know exactly what the health insurance policy they pay for will cover in advance, instead of being kept in the dark.”

The petition itself asked for clarity on five points — the first of which asked the cost of contraception and how much of that cost is covered by insurance. The second point addressed discrepancies in the policies between undergraduate students and graduate students. The third focused on which specific birth control methods are affected by the policy changes, and the fourth was related to the removal of “emergency contraception.” The fifth and last point concerned the freedom of conscience for those who use birth control.

Kate Bermingham, a graduate student and member of I4RH, said in an email that the group is frustrated with the new policies related to contraception.

“We’ve been pretty disappointed at how the changes have been handled and we are tired of the lack of clear information being provided by the University about what will and will not be covered,” she said. “I4RH’s position is that we need access to all FDA-approved methods of birth control. We think no student or employee should ever have to choose between the birth control method that’s best for their needs and what they can afford.”

Becca Fritz, a senior and IR4H member, said in an email the group’s focus is to advocate for “comprehensive and accessible reproductive healthcare” for the campus community.

“Our work centers around promoting discussion about this issue, calling attention to the University’s irresponsible handling of the insurance policy change and making condoms and dental dams accessible to people who need them,” Fritz said.

IR4H is “an independent group of Notre Dame students,” Jarrett explained. She said the group is not seeking an association with the Student Activities Office, but it has been in contact with administrators.

Bermingham said these administrators include dean of the graduate school, Laura Carlson, and Ann Firth, Jenkins’ chief of staff. Some of the group’s other advocacy activities have included two condom distributions and letters to The Observer.

Sophomore Sam Kennedy, another member of the group, said in an email he thinks the group’s mission has generally been received positively on campus.

“Many of my male friends in my dorm were enthusiastically in support of my work with the condom distribution,” he said. “They loved that someone was finally stepping up to address the issue of sexual health on this campus, and were ready and willing to take on some of the burden of safe sex and reproductive health through the use of condoms. We definitely brightened a lot of people’s days with the condom distribution. There were certainly a few disgruntled passers-by, but the overwhelming majority of people were delighted, thankful and overall positive in their reactions to seeing us. For me, the happiness we brought to people that day was one of the best things about the event.”

Bermingham said 139 individuals, mainly current students and alumni, signed the petition itself. The administration has not responded to the petition yet, Jarrett said, but the group hopes to use the community’s response to the petition to “demand one.” In the text of the petition, I4RH requested a response from the administration by Friday, May 4.

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About Tom Naatz

Tom is a senior at University of Notre Dame. He is majoring in Political Science and Spanish and is originally from Rockville, Maryland. Formerly The Observer's Notre Dame News Editor, he's now a proud columnist for the paper.

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