Healthcare, counseling, and material support on campus
The composition of Notre Dame shifted dramatically in 1972 when the university became coed. As the Observer from that fall notes, “health services for women” were a point of disagreement among administrative bodies and the only subsequent care provided for women was the referral “to gynecologists in South Bend.” The added presence of female administrators and counselors to the campus staff summed up the only quantifiable beginnings of female care on campus.
Despite the slow beginnings of wellness care for its female students, Notre Dame has progressed in depth and breadth of comprehensive support services at Notre Dame that care for women, including now listing gynecological services on the University Health Services website. However, the most impactful of these progressions has been the founding of the Family Resource Center (FRC), a department that cares for married, parenting, and pregnant students on campus.
Peggy Hnatusko, the FRC Program Director, told the Rover the following about the creation of the FRC: “The Notre Dame Family Resource Center (FRC) was founded and established … to provide support services to married, parenting, and/or pregnant students to ensure all families thrive at Notre Dame. Through year-round educational and social programming, the FRC is dedicated to building community for Notre Dame’s married, parenting, and/or pregnant students and their families and to working with established partners throughout the University to connect these students with resources to enhance their intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual formation.”
According to Hnatusko, the FRC assists students by providing; “expectant parent support lunches,” “maternity and infant clothes closet,” “Childbirth Education classes,” and “a free diaper and formula bank.” In addition, Hnatusko named “Baby kits’ (car seat, crib, stroller, etc.)” as being available to students through the FRC.
The resources of the FRC—alongside material, financial, and fellowship support—also include mental health care for the expectant parents. Hnatusko named “isolation” and “hidden financial costs” as some of the difficult aspects of unexpected pregnancy, and the FRC website states that “counseling is available both during and after the pregnancy, through the Family Resource Center, the University Counseling Center, and/or Campus Ministry.”
As the Rover has previously reported, the myths of Notre Dame’s poor pregnancy care and indiscriminate disciplinary action are not borne out in the laws and practices of the University. Du Lac, while prohibiting premarital sexual activity outside marriage, does not indicate disciplinary action in response to a woman’s unplanned pregnancy. Hnatusko emphasizes that Notre Dame seeks to offer “caring, non-judgmental, and professional assistance and support” to its students.
Notre Dame Right to Life, a nonpartisan pro-life club on campus, has also taken up the challenge to increase support for pregnant and parenting students on campus and in the local community. In a Letter to the Editor in the Observer, President Merlot Fogarty writes: “Our service initiatives range from baby showers for moms in the community, free weekly babysitting for parenting students and faculty, spending time with the elderly at Holy Cross Village, raising money for a mom who chose life whom we’ve adopted through “Let Them Live,” volunteering at the Women’s Care Center or Hannah’s House and so much more!”
Because the University “recognizes and upholds the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death” per a 2010 statement, it does not provide access to abortion in accorance with the teaching of the Catholic Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states: “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.”
If you or someone you know is in need of pregnancy support or counseling, please consider the following options for support:
Mary Rice is a senior majoring in Theology and the Program of Liberal Studies. In the midst of writing her senior thesis, she welcomes any and all interruptions at email@example.com.
Photo Credit: FRC