Planned Parenthood affiliate calls for “reproductive justice”
On a Thursday night at Notre Dame, one can expect to see Ubers, Lyfts, and taxis crowding main circle, shepherding students to and from weekend activities in South Bend. On Thursday February 15, however, the crowds and cars were joined by an additional, unexpected sight: free condoms.
Irish 4 Reproductive Health, a new group unaffiliated with Notre Dame, distributed over 1,000 condoms, according to a press release. Accompanying the condoms were definitions of consent, such as “‘The absence of a ‘no’ is not a ‘yes’’ and ‘If it’s not clear, it’s not consent.’”
The distribution was announced via the group’s Twitter page, “#coNDoms on main circle #SafetyFirst,” and was planned to coincide with National Condom Week.
In a press release regarding the distribution, I4RH stated that, “Our condoms and consent distribution was received with enthusiasm. Dozens of students thanked us for our efforts, echoing our view that Notre Dame students need improved access to sexual health information and resources, especially condoms.”
The enthusiasm was not unanimous, and many students have shared negative opinions about the distribution.
Junior Jared Diesslin, recalled his experience interacting with I4RH when he arrived at main circle after a date with his fiance, junior Kaelyn Fox, “The girl said she was part of a new club on campus promoting sexual health and offered us a condom. She wasn’t pushy but pretty forward, she definitely approached us right when we got out of the car at main circle.”
Fox added, “It was disappointing. Unlike other forms of contraceptives that could serve other (sometimes legitimate) purposes rather than simply preventing pregnancy, a condom is nothing but a means by which one gains pleasure without claiming full responsibility. Honestly, it was sad to see such a radical response to the discussion taking place on campus right now; there are definitely other less controversial means by which to further the discussion.”
Both Diesslin and Fox expressed disappointment that the event took place at main circle, which is often “first clear view of the Dome that visitors get,” and could “leave potential students and visiting parents in an awkward situation.”
The condom distribution was held the same weekend as Junior Parents Weekend, increasing the possibility that a visiting parents might have interacted with the event while visiting their children.
A freshman also criticized the event, stating that “distributing condoms infringes on Notre Dame’s Catholic identity as well as the Catholicism of her students—the religious heritage of a large majority of the students demands a high standard of ethical behavior than the casual enabling of premarital sex.”
According to their Mission Statement, I4RH is “not seeking institutional affiliation or funding from the University of Notre Dame in order to preserve our philosophical autonomy.” They are, however, affiliated with Planned Parenthood, Catholics for Choice, and other, unnamed, South Bend groups.
In a statement to the Rover, I4RH explained that the condoms were provided by Planned Parenthood. According to the same statement, I4RH is affiliated with Planned Parenthood through its “Generation Action” project , which “empowers students to act autonomously on their campuses.” Although Planned Parenthood provided the condoms, I4RH denies that they have provided any additional funding.
I4RH describes themselves as “an independent, non-hierarchical group of individuals advocating for reproductive justice at the University of Notre Dame and in our surrounding community,” and states that their “feminism is intersectional, sex-positive, gender-affirming, LGBTQIA+-affirming, and anti-racist.”
In their press release, I4RH stated that they do not have any immediate plans for additional condom distribution, but that they “do plan to hold events that provide education and resources to promote our community’s reproductive and sexual health.”
Earlier the same day as their condom distribution, I4RH published a Letter to the Editor in the Observer, calling on the university’s administration to, “make condoms accessible and available to the University community.”
This call came in response to the university’s recent decision to provide “simple contraception” in its health plan. The signatories of the letter stated that said decision acknowledges the “conscientious choice of using prescription contraception; [and that] funding access to condoms on campus would allow men on campus, as well as women who do not use prescription contraception, to make the same choice for their sexual and reproductive health.”
One of the signatories, senior Emily Garrett, had previously commented that Feminist ND, an officially recognized club, had avoided promoting contraceptives on campus so as not to breach Student Activity Office rules which restrict clubs from, “encourag[ing] or participat[ing] in any activity that contravenes the mission of the University or the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.”
According to the university’s Standards of Conduct regarding sexual activity, the moral teachings of the Catholic Church includes the “teaching that a genuine and complete expression of love through sex requires a commitment to a total living and sharing together of two persons in marriage.”
In 2013, multiple Catholic universities, including Notre Dame, threatened to pursue disciplinary action against student groups that distributed condoms, according to the Boston Globe.
Evan Holguin is a senior in the Program of Liberal Studies. Please send questions or responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.