Panel discusses services for pregnant students at Notre Dame
“All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ.”
Jenny Hunsberger, a Women’s Care Center counselor, said that this line from the teaching of St. Benedict perfectly describes the mission of the Women’s Care Center at Notre Dame. It is in this spirit of inclusion and understanding that Notre Dame offers extensive resources for pregnant students.
To help with this mission, the Gender Relations Center, Institute for Church Life, Right to Life club, and Center for Ethics and Culture assembled a panel to discuss Notre Dame’s pregnancy resources. Speakers were Karen Kennedy of Student Affairs, Jenny Hunsberger of the Women’s Care Center, and Ed Mack of Campus Ministry.
Kennedy told students that pregnancysupport.nd.edu of the Office of Student Affairs provides resources and frequently asked questions for pregnant students or those affected by a pregnancy.
The best places for students to find support are through designated support advocates, campus ministry, hall staff, the Women’s Care Center, and Academic Deans who can help with academic schedules.
“When someone comes to you, the most important thing you can do is to be nonjudgmental, to be empathetic, and to connect them to a resource that can help them further,” Kennedy advised. “I think that the Women’s Care Center is a great place to start.”
Kennedy showed a video in which two Notre Dame students who unintentionally became pregnant shared how they were able to successfully have a child and complete their degrees with the help of the university.
“I found the pregnancy support website for the Office of Student Affairs. I was very surprised,” Staysha Titus, class of 2010, related. “Obviously being a Catholic university, I expected the pro-life aspect of it to play very closely to it all, but to find out there were so many resources and that everyone was so supportive was a big relief. It was such a relief to have someone directly affiliated with the university to answer my questions or any concerns I had.”
Lynee Layne, class of 2008, talked about the support she received from her hall staff: “I received the information about the student housing for parent students and also financial aid options from my RA … She set up a baby shower for me … She got a whole list of girls in the dorm who were willing to babysit. She helped me pack and helped us move … my rectress was very supportive and let me know that she was there for me to do whatever I needed her to do.”
Annie Crider, a Resident Assistant in Farley Hall, told the Rover about the training she received in supporting pregnant members of her hall’s community: “It had the same theme as all of our training, which was caring for the dignity of the person and, in the case of a pregnancy, caring for the dignity of both persons … We were very much encouraged to alert the student of the resources on campus … it is not something they have to go through alone.”
Jenny Hunsberger of the Women’s Care Center, part of a national organization that is the largest, most successful pregnancy resource center in American history, shared how the Women’s Care Center has been helping women for the last several decades, and how it continues to support women today.
The Women’s Care Center serves 25,000 women annually, has 22 centers in 7 states, has 350 client visits each day, and performs 7,000 ultrasounds annually. Today, 5,700 Women’s Care Center clients are expecting children. Hunsberg exclaimed, “That’s 250 classrooms full of kindergarteners!”
“It all started right here at Notre Dame,” she continued. “There was a single professor who was wildly committed to life, and she had a student who was here and had an unplanned pregnancy, and she had no one to care for her. This professor thought, ‘Not here.’ So she started the Women’s Care Center in 1984 in a little blue house next to what was then the abortion clinic.”
Emphasizing the importance of how a willingness to listen was critical to the success of this organization, Hunsberger told students, “The reason that 97 percent of Women’s Care Center clients choose life is not because we convince them not to have abortions. It is not because we bought them a crib or gave them thousands of diapers. It is not even because we gave them ultrasounds and parenting class after parenting class after parenting class and goals counseling and we hooked them up with all the resources that would make it possible. It is because we listened … And that practice of listening enables them to listen to their own hearts. And I will tell you that when the mind is informed by the deepest and best desires of the heart, life wins every time.”
“What we all bring to the table is ears,” said Ed Mack of Campus Ministry. “The ability to listen. Do you want to talk to a priest?” he continued. “I got them young, middle aged, or old.” Mack said that he could put students in contact with a variety of supportive people on campus, depending on the student’s preference.
Caroline Corsones is a junior English major with a minor in business economics. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She single-handedly convinced Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom. You’re welcome.