Reproductive Healthcare in Indiana: Legislation, History, and Statistics

Contributed by Anna Rask.

The Notre Dame “bubble” of privilege often shields students from the local lived experiences, realities, and human costs of hot-button issues on campus. The catholicity of the school lends abortion to be one of those topics, yet, as an out-of-state student myself, I have rarely heard even basic facts about reproductive healthcare in Indiana ever discussed in a school-sponsored setting. In fact, as a result of my own ignorance, I had to research reproductive healthcare access for the purposes of this post. Knowledge of important legislation and facts regarding healthcare access can help students, voters, and activists across the spectrum foster informed discussions/debates and make educated policy decisions. The below sections include some important moments, facts, and legislation around abortion and reproductive health in Indiana.


  • Pregnancy and Childbirth Discrimination (SB 342): This legislation is passed committe but not yet enacted. It would allow for work accommodations (e.g. a place to sit) for pregnant and lactating employees. Currently in Indiana, particularly low-wage or physically-demanding jobs may fire or force women onto leave if they request even minor accommodations.
  • Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws: These laws are designed to eliminate access to safe and affordable reproductive care by establishing stringent and often medically unnecessary requirements that are not compulsory for other medical clinics.
    • In Indiana, an example of a TRAP law includes SB 292, which added authorizations for clinic inspections, amended informed consent policies, and placed new requirements for hospital admitting privileges. A more recent TRAP law is the 2018 SB 340, which changed abortion law regarding clinic license applications, inspections, abortion complications, abortion inducing drugs, and state reporting, among other anti-choice provisions.
    • The omnibus Abortion Bill (HEA 1210) further restricts funding, requires a forced ultrasound, and contains admitting privileges and physician contact provisions.
    • Another TRAP law that was recently upheld by the United States Supreme Court is HB 1337, which requires the burial or cremation of all fetal remains, irrespective of how the pregnancy ended. This bill also requires an ultrasound 18 hours before an abortion, among other restrictions.
  • Indiana Insurance Coverage for Abortion Ban (HB 1123): This law severely limits abortion coverage


  • Indiana bans abortion past 22 weeks, before the viability range (24-28).
  • In 2014, around 95% of Indiana counties had no abortion care clinics, and 66% of Indiana women age 15-44 lives in those counties.
  • As of 2017, the state of Indiana has 9 abortion clinics.

Reproductive Care in South Bend:

  • The Women’s Pavilion (the sole abortion provider in South Bend during the time period of 1978-2016) was met with backlash from its inception. Beginning with St. Joseph’s hospital (claiming the location of the clinic next to the hospital would harm its reputation), numerous anti-choice committees and organizations filed lawsuits and complaints against the clinic and its abortion provider over the years in an attempt to impede its functioning. The abortion provier Dr. Klopfer was recently discovered to have improperly stowed the remains of 2400 fetuses in his home. The city’s sole abortion clinic is now Whole Women’s Health Alliance, founded in 2018.
  • Women’s Care Center is a crisis pregnancy center operating largely in Indiana as well as other locations nationally. It unsuccessfully tried to open a location next to Whole Woman’s Health Alliance when Mayor Buttigieg vetoed a rezoning bill in 2018. WCC purports to offer medical-grade pregnancy support and abortion care, yet they are not a licensed medical facility nor are they overseen by the state’s department of health. WCC also does not provide STI testing, contraceptives, nor unbiased and professional counseling. They have also been accused of harassing and lying to numerous clients.
  • Before fetus burial became enshrined in the law, St. Joseph’s hospital in South Bend provided a grossly invasive “optional” burial service by the name of In God’s Arms, pushed heavily by chaplains to women that have just suffered a miscarriage. While some appreciate the ability to honor their fetus’s remains, others have felt harassed by the program’s chaplains to choose the burial service and shamed by them for opting out. You can read about local women who faced this harassment here.
  • St. Joseph’s hospital’s parent company, Trinity Health, was sued for failing to provide emergency care (including abortions) to people experiencing severe pregnancy complications in accordance with federal law. The cases have since been dismissed.

ACB and Me

March for Reproductive Freedom at the University of Notre Dame, October 2017

This article was originally published by one of our founders on Medium and reposted here with permission.

Thinking back, the outcry from various political conservatives I know, both at ND and elsewhere, over purported anti-Catholic sentiment during Barrett’s 2017 confirmation hearings directly affected my own political views, facilitating my significant shift to the left. Just today, I realized that I associate Barrett’s career trajectory with a turning in my own mind and life.

Barrett’s confirmation to the 7th Circuit was going down just as Trump-Pence were expanding the exemption for religious objectors to the ACA’s birth control benefit, i.e. preparing to empower institutions like Notre Dame to use their economic standing to actively obstruct employees’ and students’ access to reproductive healthcare under the distorted label of religious freedom. (Recall that we used to have two separate plans via the ACA’s accommodation process; the government directly reimbursed insurance companies for all contraceptive-related care.)

Anyway, back in late 2017, I remember being pretty blown away by the morally absurd claims that then-Professor Amy Coney Barrett — a person with material security who was vying for a position of considerable authority and public status — was seriously harmed by a few tactless questions during her confirmation hearings. I was blown away because the same folks who were claiming that religious freedom was under siege were simultaneously refusing to lend any credence to the first-hand testimonies of low-income and vulnerable people who can become pregnant at ND about the harms we/they experience as a result of obstructed access to reproductive healthcare.

That’s probably what radicalized me, so to speak. I realized that a lot of people who self-describe as “morally serious” interpret moral seriousness to mean Barrett endured a grave injustice during her confirmation hearing while dismissing the harms experienced by the person who needs regular access to emergency contraception (which is $40-$50/pill) in order to correct a severe and potentially life-threatening hormonal imbalance. In my own case, I was already enraged about the hours and money I’d spent trying to access care that should have been free and seamless — costs my cis-men colleagues (some of whom were also my romantic partners during grad school) did not incur, but often benefited from. So there was a backdrop of frustration, anger, etc. about birth control coverage — but the rush to emblazon coffee mugs with “the dogma lives loudly within you” as if Barrett was some kind of champion for the downtrodden was what really made me want to puke. (I started learning to organize instead.)

Reflecting on the events of three years ago is helping me understand more clearly the emotional response I’ve had not only to the recent passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but to the nomination of Barrett, of all people, to replace her. In the wake of her nomination, I’ve been obsessively reading coverage about ACB. The undercurrent of mounting anxiety I’m experiencing, which is distracting me from completely focusing on my work, must be connected not only to what is to come — but also to what’s happened already: the illegal imposition of burdensome costs on people who need access to reproductive healthcare at Notre Dame, along with restricted options.

My dissertation (“Traumatic Time and Therapeutic Freedom: Enduring, Healing, and Starting Anew in Hannah Arendt’s Political Thought”) begins with a discussion of the interview Arendt gave to Günter Gaus in 1964 when she famously protests his description of her as a philosopher, saying “my profession, if one can even speak of it at all is political theory.” After briefly discussing the significance of the distinction between philosophy and political theory for Arendt, I write: “Later in the interview, Gaus invited Arendt to expand on what prompted her apostasy from philosophy, asking: ‘Is there a definite event in your memory that dates your turn to the political?’ Arendt answered with characteristic decisiveness: ‘I would say February 27, 1933, the burning of the Reichstag, and the illegal arrests that followed during the same night.’ Though her upbringing was fairly secular, Arendt’s effort to understand politics — the realm of human life and activity that occupies the most prominent place in her writings — was bound up from the first with the persecution of the Jewish people in mid-twentieth century Europe. ‘If one is attacked as a Jew, one must defend oneself as a Jew,’ Arendt told Gaus in the interview.

“In addition to demonstrating the significance of the fate of the Jewish people in Arendt’s intellectual trajectory (might she have “stayed with” philosophy if the rise of National Socialism had been thwarted?), the specificity of her reply to Gaus also attests to the primacy of discrete moments in time in Arendt’s political theory. Per Jonathan Schell: “it was events that set her mind in motion, and philosophy that had to adjust,” a view corroborated by Arendt’s own reflections on how the horrific events of a particular day prompted her to reorient the course of her intellectual and professional life, to devote her attention to the political rather than the philosophical realm. Events — temporal happenings — are the basic unit of Arendt’s thought, the point from which her tentative and provisional analyses depart. In other words, Arendt locates the significance of politics not in static transhistorical forms, but in transitory, historical, and contingent occurrences.”

If asked to date my own turn to the political, I’d say October 6, 2017: the day Fr. Jenkins — currently quarantining after attending Judge Barrett’s SCOTUS nomination party unmasked — released his statement “welcoming” and “applauding” the HHS’s implementation of a conception of religious liberty that distorts harmer and harmed.

Statement on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court

Multiple sources are reporting that we should expect President Trump to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to fill the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court later today. As students and members of the Notre Dame community, we strongly oppose this nomination.

Judge Barrett’s nomination is indicative of the singular carelessness of this administration for anyone other than 45’s base. As a professor here at Notre Dame, she has written dismissively of following Supreme Court precedent. In her short time as a judge on the 7th Circuit, Judge Barrett has shown great hostility toward the Affordable Care Act, which will go before the court on Nov. 10. Her record also indicates that, as a final arbiter of Constitutional freedoms, she will eviscerate abortion, LGBTQ+, immigration, and civil rights, threatening the health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable people of our country. It’s shameful that our university continues to benefit from and legitimize this proto-fascist administration by directly cooperating with its efforts to deny bodily autonomy to people who can become pregnant. To laud the selection of Judge Barrett to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg is to cheer for basic freedoms being stripped from vulnerable people in the near future. It’s disturbing that, with this nomination, Notre Dame’s legacy will be further tied to the erosion of democracy and the perpetuation of gender injustice under Trump-Pence.

Reproductive Freedom for South Bend

A Q&A about gender justice, reproductive freedom, and sexual health with two of the candidates running for the Democratic Party nomination to represent District 6 in the House of Indiana’s General Assembly.

Our thanks to Maureen Bauer, Garrett Blad, and Drew Duncan for responding to our questions.

(NB: Blad’s campaign submitted answers after we initially published Bauer and Duncan’s responses; we’ve updated our previous post to include all three candidates’ answers.)

Irish 4 Reproductive Health (I4RH): How do reproductive freedom and gender justice factor into your platform and ultimate goals as a State Representative for our area?

Maureen Bauer (MB): I believe that no one should live a life in fear, simply for being who they are. I trust in a woman’s ability to make her own health decisions that are best for her, and that it is her right, and my policy would reflect these views.

Drew Duncan (DD): Reproductive Health Rights are Human Rights. Unfortunately, most of our Indiana lawmakers do not agree. People seeking reproductive healthcare have been terrorized by groups of violent protesters. Patients are relentlessly coerced into participating in unethical and deceptive counseling practices. Doctors and clinics are required to jump through redundant, and often unconstitutional, hoops to adhere to ordinances. Healthcare workers are harassed, threatened, and violently attacked for simply doing their jobs.

I believe in the expansion of healthcare to include every Hoosier. Healthcare for all includes reproductive freedom. I believe Hoosiers have the right to safely access reproductive healthcare, without fear of being attacked or shamed. I will fight to reopen Planned Parenthood and similar organizations.

Garrett Blad (GB): I’m running because South Bend needs leaders committed to action now. Reproductive justice is critical to a healthy and well-functioning society. However, these rights have been under siege in Indiana. We must begin to fight back and win more protections so every Hoosier has the reproductive healthcare they need to live a healthy and fulfilled life, no matter their race, gender, or where they live. Urgent leadership is needed, not the continuation of the status quo.

I4RH: In your view, what are the top priorities for legislative action in these areas at the state level?

MB: I am hopeful to see the following legislation re-proposed in the 2021 legislative session, which I would support to move into law:

  • State Rep. Rita Fleming’s proposed legislation to allow pharmacists in the state to prescribe oral hormonal contraceptives and hormonal contraceptive patches to women aged 18 years and older.
  • State Rep. Karlee Macer’s proposed legislation that is working to define consent under the law, whereas currently, sex without consent is not a crime in Indiana.
  • State Rep. Carey Hamilton’s proposed legislation to remove the sales tax on feminine hygiene products, which has been removed in Illinois and Ohio, and is an unfair burden to women for medically necessary supplies.
  • Sen. Karen Tallian’s proposed legislation to provide free contraceptives to all with insurance.

DD: Let’s start at the city level! We can press our City Council to support organizations like Planned Parenthood.

GB: There has been an alarming rise in maternal mortality in Indiana because of state-sponsored campaigns to defund women’s healthcare and demonize women’s healthcare providers.
First, we must expand rights for pregnant workers and reduce the infant mortality rate. Pregnant women at Amazon assembly line for instance have no rights, something that Hoosier Action, a group focused on improving the lives of Hoosiers, pushed in the last legislative session and got close to passing. One additional way of reducing the sky-high infant mortality rate in Indiana is to ensure Medicaid covers doulas, a proven way to reduce maternal mortality. Everyone should be able to afford a doula, if they want one.

Second – Roe is not enough. State legislators around the country need to be proactive and strategic in order to ensure that people can actually access their Constitutionally-secured right to an abortion. We need to dismantle Indiana's TRAP laws, which make it prohibitively expensive for many people in our state to access abortion and other forms of reproductive care. These laws are under-handed strategies to shut down existing providers and to prevent new ones from opening. Worse yet, defenders of these wasteful and misguided laws disingenuously claim to want to "protect women" when they are actually putting people in harm's way–not to mention violating their rights. The state should also legalize self-managed abortions which are proven to be medically safe. This is especially important during the pandemic, when access to in-person care is restricted.

And lastly, Indiana public schools need to offer adequate sex education. The current requirements are abysmal. I will work to make sure Indiana leads on sex education.

I4RH: Given the Republican supermajority in our state legislature, how would you advance these priorities?

MB: The top priority would be to break the supermajority to allow for Democrats to have their legislation heard, and voted on, rather than the current imbalance, which doesn’t even require Democrats to show up to make a quorum. The way to accomplish policy on women’s healthcare would be to support and elect capable women candidates as they step up to run for office, and who have the experience to collaborate and accomplish gender equality through sensible legislation. Currently, our Indiana General Assembly is only 24% female, which does not fairly represent the 51% female population.

DD: We have an uphill battle in Indiana’s General Assembly. I will fight for reproductive freedom and gender justice the only way I know how. Organize! I will organize down-state to gather like-minded lawmakers to fight for reproductive freedom and gender justice. Once I am elected, I plan on looking down-ballot. I will organize and help fund progressive candidates all over the State of Indiana. The more progressives we have in our state and local governments, the more likely we are to change Indiana State Law.

GB: First off, the Democratic caucus, whatever its size, must not tolerate forced-birth members. I will fight to flip seats, contributing money I raise from this safe Democratic seat to pro-choice candidates across the state in addition to mobilizing our volunteer base to call voters. One of them is right next door to South Bend. Dr. Don Westerhausen came 400 votes shy of flipping a Republican seat in Mishawaka. Had the South Bend Rep donated even $1,000 and written an op-ed, perhaps Democrats would already be out of a super-minority status in the legislature.

Legislation to protect pregnant worker rights is a critical bill and moves rights for women and families forward. However, the opposition to it suggests that this has always been about sexism and economic inequality. In other words, I am happy to work on incremental change with Republicans, but really, we need a movement to flip as many seats, the seats that Rep. Bauer lost as Speaker of the House. Unlike Rep. Bauer, I will fight against Mike Pence’s illegal crackdown on women’s health centers, which provide critical care to entire communities.

I4RH: How would you recommend reducing the amount of harassment and nuisance people going to Whole Woman’s Health South Bend have to deal with?

MB: I would uphold and abide the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act and hold those offenders accountable for their actions, including intimidation, force or threat to force, injure or threat to injure.

DD: Press the mayor, push city council to pass ordinances concerning nuisance individuals. Essentially these people are intimidating others not to seek medical help. This cannot continue to be the case.

GB: It is wrong for members of our community who seek this care and the Whole Women’s Health staff to be routinely subjected to harassment by anti-abortion activists who assemble outside of the clinic whenever it is open. All people deserve privacy when accessing health care, and reproductive and sexual health care is no different.

While the city cannot ban free speech, city officials can push for an ordinance that makes it a crime to follow and harass another person within 15 feet of the premises of a reproductive health care facility. As a leader in the community, I will discourage such disruptions to healthcare access in our community and work with local leaders to protect those seeking their constitutional right to reproductive freedom.

I4RH: As of 2019, the CDC determined that cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia are surging in Indiana and St. Joseph County’s rate was higher than the state average. What policies at the local and state level will most effectively halt this?

MB: Investing in our sexual and reproductive health is critical to having healthier communities and citizens. Also, recognizing that not all people have equal access to reproductive healthcare resources, services, or information is a direct result of increased cases of preventable disease. Area epidemiologists have compiled data down to the zip code on our dismal infant and maternal mortality rates, and sexual health which state officials have turned away. Given the current health crisis we are in, I can only hope that our state officials will trust our medical experts again, as we look to them to guide us through the greatest health emergency we have seen in generations, and use the data to improve the safety and health of our communities.

DD: I’ve seen this injustice play out over and over again in South Bend City. We’ve witnessed reproductive healthcare facilities shuttered and replaced by anti-choice, propaganda spewing “women’s counseling centers”. These counseling centers often offer no medical services outside of free pregnancy testing.

So called abortion clinics do more for the community than just abortions. Agencies like Planned Parenthood not only offer free STI testing, they also offer cost effective preventative care. From mammograms to “safe sex” education and counseling. Many of these infectious diseases are preventable with education and lost cost prophylactics.

GB: We need to invest in more women’s health centers, which often provide STD testing and education to all in the community. We need better, honest sex education. And we need to expand access to basic healthcare, expanding qualifications for the Indiana Healthy Plan so that check-ups and testing for STDs are free, easy, and normalized in our state.

**NB: I4RH posed a different question about Patrick Bauer’s record to Maureen Bauer than to Drew Duncan and Garrett Blad. We sought to press Candidate Bauer to address some of the specifics of her father’s 50-year incumbency while pressing Candidates Duncan and Blad to demonstrate the depths of their knowledge about the recent history of reproductive rights legislation in Indiana.**

I4RH to Maureen Bauer: Your campaign’s message emphasizes consistency and stability for our area, as well as the values of service that you’ve learned from your family. Your father, who has held this seat since 1970, has repeatedly cast votes that undermine bodily autonomy, even though he is a Democrat. Just within the past few years, he has voted in favor of the Fetal Remains Burial law, voted to ban a common second-trimester abortion method, and voted in favor of allowing nurses, physician assistants, and pharmacists to refuse to participate in an abortion—or prescribe an abortion-inducing drug—if doing so would be contrary to any religious or moral belief; providers are permitted to abstain regardless of whether others are available to fulfill patients’ health needs and patients are not warned ahead of time if they will be denied care. Are these areas where you would build on your father’s record?

MB: I believe that every woman is capable of making her own decisions, and I believe in her ability to do so, regardless of where she came from. I support women in their struggle for equity, and trust women to make their own decisions and think for themselves.

I support women’s reproductive rights, and as a woman in Indiana, I know the burden of others trying to make these decisions for her. It is a woman’s right to do so, regardless of stigma or shame.

I4RH to Drew Duncan (and Garrett Blad): What are your thoughts on Patrick Bauer’s record on reproductive rights? What specifically would you have done differently?

DD: Patrick Bauer’s record is abhorrent on reproductive freedom and gender injustice. I refuse to vote in favor of offensive legislation like the Fetal Remains Act. Bauer speaks a great game during election years, but fails to follow through when it comes to voting in the State House.

GB: I believe women deserve the freedom to decide on their own reproductive health. I do not support the bills that Rep. Bauer voted for, like Pence’s anti-abortion bill that a federal judge blocked in 2016 because it was an illegal limit on a woman’s long-established constitutional right. The law that Bauer supported affected poor women the most, because they are not able to travel to other states to seek abortions.

When I talk about ensuring everyone has the health care they need, I mean everyone. This is about improving the health of our community. Banning abortions has proven to only force women to resort to more dangerous and harmful alternatives, which serves no one.

We need to expand care for women before, during and after the birth so that we can reduce the rate of infant mortality in Indiana, which in St. Joe County is among the highest in the industrialized world, and it’s highest among black women. I will do everything in my power to fight for women and families in South Bend.

Throughout Rep. Bauer’s decades-long tenure, Hoosiers have faced numerous obstructions to accessing reproductive healthcare–and these obstructions have increased dramatically under Bauer's watch. At best, he has been a negligent enabler of those who would interfere with our rights; at worst, he has proactively contributed to the erosion of bodily autonomy for Hoosiers, especially people who are low-income. Urgent change is necessary to lead our state in a new direction.

I4RH to Garrett Blad (we only asked this of Blad): You’re a Notre Dame alumnus–what do you think the University and Notre Dame students should do to improve reproductive and sexual health on campus and off?

GB: Notre Dame students should demand reproductive justice, access to condoms and reproductive health care, and sex education as a part of the required curriculum. As a gay student at Notre Dame with several friends who experienced assualt, there is a long way to go to ensure the LGBT students and women feel safe on a campus that continues to struggle with high rates of sexual assault. There is low faith that Notre Dame’s administration takes cases seriously, which creates a culture of fear and reproduces more harm. Students must continue to demand change and leadership from the administration to take assault seriously, no matter who is involved.

I4RH: What else do you want voters in our area–and especially people who can become pregnant–to know about your commitment to reproductive freedom?

MB: I remain committed to protecting women’s reproductive rights and improving the health and well-bring of our mothers and children, especially those children in their critical first year of life, and those with disabilities. I look forward to helping all in Indiana, and increasing the health outcomes for our community, and will work to improve the statistics on our infant and maternal mortality rates.

DD: If elected I will be accessible to our community. I will stand with you. I will rally on the streets and fight in the State House. Most importantly I want education about reproductive rights and resources to be abundant and available. This includes a robust sex education program.

GB: I’m fully committed to ensuring reproductive freedom for everyone. I am the candidate who will work tirelessly to use my network, funds, and volunteers to win other elections around the state so those who believe in improving reproductive freedom can govern and implement changes in the Statehouse. Far too many in our community cannot afford more of the status quo. Urgent change is needed and I will fight to make it a reality.

Four Lessons I Learned From Recovering From Purity Culture

Contributed by Tee Chuanromanee

Like many other Notre Dame students, I grew up in church. While my non-denominational Evangelical church didn’t seem as formal or institutional as Catholic churches, it still had plenty to say about sexual purity.

In sixth grade, wide-eyed and in the middle of puberty, sitting in a small circle with other girls I listened rapt with attention as my Wednesday night Bible study teacher explained that your body is only to be saved for your Future Husband. She stated that “giving your body away” to someone who you were not married to is like sticking two pieces of tape together. It sticks at first because you have a bond with the person you slept with. But you will always break up, and the tape will never stick as well again. Remember, she said, don’t stick yourself to anyone unless you’re married to him or you’ll never be able to have a good relationship with anyone because you’ve ruined yourself.

I took her words to heart because I had no reason not to. Her message echoed the many others I’ve been told outright or implicitly. Like many who came before and after me, Evangelical or Catholic or in-between, I grew up with the narrative that sex was bad until it was supposed to be good. I received no sex education at church or at home except to say that sex was something to be avoided. I was taught to keep myself (and all male others) pure though my words and thoughts. “Take every thought captive” was my mantra throughout middle school.

It was fine, until it was not. I had no trouble with the teaching until I actually encountered real life, real thoughts, real desires. When my mind wasn’t as easy to control or shut down like the churches made it seem, when I realized I wasn’t cis or straight, it became a problem.

And it made sense. Although this teaching has been entrenched in many churches for the past decades, it harmed me and so many others. Abstinence pledges can result in higher rates of unintended pregnancy and STDs. Even for people who have didn’t have sex until marriage, feelings of shame surrounding sex don’t magically go away. Purity culture is also grounded in the notion of traditional gender roles, perpetuates rape culture, and relies on cissexist, homophobic, and racist assumptions.

I am a product of the purity culture of the late 90s and 2000s, and it gave me a tainted view of sex that I am still unlearning even many years after I left that church. Just two years ago, Linda Kay Klein’s book, Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free shocked me to the core. I thought that because I disavowed many other toxic beliefs from my childhood and teen years, I was fine now. But how could she see everything that I went through in the past and even in the present? Suddenly I had an explanation for my low-grade depression that got triggered by any sexual or romantic feelings. Even as someone who considers themselves proudly trans, queer, and sex-positive, I was still affected by this garbage.

Unpacking this baggage is a process I have been working at for many years, and it’s still ongoing. Here are some lessons I learned when healing from the wounds caused by purity culture.

1. Question and recognize your views on sexuality.

As humans who have lived our lives going through phases of belief, questioning, learning, and unlearning, our views on things have been shaped by many factors both internal and external. Even as feminists and fighters for reproductive justice, we may still hold unconscious beliefs left over from a different time in our lives. It’s important to learn to question your beliefs and find those that support your values. Purity culture relies on a set of core beliefs, but so does reproductive justice. It’s helpful to clarify to yourself what your beliefs are and to empower yourself by speaking them or writing them down. And contrary to what many of us have been taught, it’s okay to be in a state of questioning. Give yourself time to work things out.

2. Don’t be too hard on yourself

When I first realized the trappings of purity culture and started to distance myself from it a few years ago, I replaced the pressure to be Pure and Nonsexual with the pressure to be the Perfect Feminist. Instead of chastising myself for having less-than-holy thoughts, I would turn it around to chastise myself for less-than-feminist thoughts. For a while, I put all the blame on myself and labeled myself as a bad feminist, but I realized that these were automatic reflexes based on the way I was raised and did not reflect on who I was as a person.

3. Use your anger to fuel your work

It’s natural to feel angry and betrayed when you realize that much of what you have been taught for decades is not true and is hurting you and others. It’s normal to want to rage at the system that caused you and many others so much misery, and letting those emotions fire your passion for reproductive justice can allow you to do many good things. Yet, don’t let that anger consume you to the point that you forget that kindness and humanity that comes with advocating for justice.

4. Surround yourself with people who have your back

When I first started to unpack how purity culture affected me, I felt so alone and isolated. The other kids who grew up in church didn’t seem to have the same problems, but they were also cisgender, straight, and white, so they were less affected by the church’s teachings. It took me months before I felt comfortable enough to talk to a friend who is also trans and grew up in the same type of Christian community.  The key is to find people who understand, whether that’s also in the queer community, friends who have the same background, or even other members in your faith community. You’re not alone, you are not the first person who has gone through this, and it is okay to struggle.

Dealing with the effects of purity culture is a doozy. Once you think you’ve deconstructed your beliefs, some more might pop up which makes you want to give up. But there is hope, and this is an opportunity for growth. We will get there.

Dear man who has thoughts on the internet

Dear man who has thoughts on the internet today,

Regretfully, I became lost when trying to follow the logic from a satirical piece of art meant to comment on the importance of not judging others (women!) with a judgment about the leaders of Student Government and people who support medical procedures. You were correct in calling these a right, like perhaps that to join the military or own guns–two of which take more lives each year than abortion. In fact, abortion saves lives.

But that’s not the only reason it should be legal. It is health care, after all. And it’s safe, more so than giving birth, says this study.

I understand that you’re fresh off the “I’m saving babies. Deus vult!” Jesus high and I urge you to consider the real people–often girls and women–who are harmed when unable to access abortions, like this 14 year-old (content warning: sexual assault) who was denied a choice and died, though, as I’m sure you’re glad to hear, her baby lived. Or Savita Halappanavar, whose unjust death after being denied an abortion catalyzed the legalization of the medical practice in Ireland. These examples from countries where Catholicism is or was allowed to dominate laws demonstrate what happens when fetal “lives” are prioritized over all others: women die. Anti-abortion zeal kills. 

Abortion should be as plentiful as necessary as determined by people who seek them and their doctors. Consider it like colonoscopies and mind your business about other people’s. 

Additionally, your critiques of Student Government seem unfounded, perhaps like you’re just looking for something to be angry with. It was specified that the Women’s March is sponsored by College Democrats. An email was also sent from Student Government regarding the March for Life, which was specified to be sponsored by ND Right to Life. Your characterization of this as malicious is disingenuous.

 If you’re gonna be sassy about “members of student government,” say who you mean with your whole chest or don’t say it at all, keyboard warrior. Although, please consider what dog whistles and sensational language you may be using, as other editorials have resulted in death threats (among others) for certain members. We are lucky to have student leaders who are dedicated to the support and rights of sexual assault survivors, the South Bend community, accessible healthcare, queer and transgender people, and humanity in general. It is a shame that they are so often dragged into situations typically unrelated to their capacities or power as students. Student Government can’t end abortion for you, and tragically, requiring all candidates to affirm anti-abortion positions seems just slightly too fascist for ND’s democratic process. 

Are you threatened by people who advocate for the rights of women and women who speak up and fight? Is that why you’ve included us, a nonprofit organization not affiliated with your University, in your list of enemies of the church?

Perhaps a more appropriate example is SNL’s spoof of the Twilight Zone episode featuring Pam Anderson, where no one is disillusioned that our patient Pam is still smoking hot. Only nurse Molly Shannon pushes that judgment depends on perception. But as we see, it’s a universal truth that Pam Anderson is a babe. And it’s a universal truth that abortion access is a good thing.

With all due respect,


PS: If you’re a supporter of our mission, please donate to help us in our fight to bring reproductive justice to the ND and South Bend communities here.

Lawsuit Update!

We are elated to announce that the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana has ruled that our lawsuit against the Trump-Pence administration and the University of Notre Dame will go forward. This is a momentous step in restoring comprehensive and affordable access to reproductive healthcare for everyone with insurance through the University of Notre Dame.

In February 2018, Notre Dame entered into a secretive deal with the Trump-Pence administration to impose unnecessary and burdensome costs on us and restrict our reproductive healthcare options to methods deemed acceptable by Fr. Jenkins’s coterie of advisors. Certain forms of IUDs and emergency contraception are not covered at all by University insurance plans, putting survivors of sexual assault and people experiencing intimate partner violence especially at risk. In direct violation of the Affordable Care Act, we now incur costs for all office visits, medications, and devices associated with reproductive health. 

We are honored to further announce that I4RH will be recognized as the 2020 Students of the Year by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State for our work to ensure that everyone has access to a full range of birth control options. Americans United has invited us to travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in a panel discussion about our work in March. We are gratefully accepting contributions to support the cost of attending this event. 

No one at Notre Dame–and no one anywhere–should have to choose between what is right for their body and life and what they can afford. 

We are deeply grateful to the National Women’s Law Center, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Americans United for the Center of Church and State for their representation, advocacy, and tireless efforts. 

Thank you for supporting Irish 4 Reproductive Health in our work to make our community at Notre Dame safer, more inclusive, and more just. 
In solidarity, 


Is public shaming pro-life?

contributed by Jackie O’Brien

Notre Dame’s Right to Life club puts on “Respect Life” week, every year in October. Normally, it entails a display of roses on campus, some sort of food/clothing drive and a prayer service at the Grotto. This year, however, they took it to a new level and engaged in a highly dangerous, divisive activity aimed at publicly shaming women who have made the difficult decision to have an abortion or are in search of reproductive health care.

South Bend has one of the only remaining active abortion clinics in the state: Whole Woman’s Health Alliance. The clinic has been under constant attack by the state, with Attorney General Curtis Hill attempting to bar the clinic from opening. This effort was blocked by a federal judge who ruled last May that the clinic could open without a state-required license, pending final approval. The right of a woman to make her own health care choices is something that has been under constant attack in Indiana.

It was in this context that at the culmination of Respect Life week, the Right to Life club conducted a “vigil” on a Saturday morning at the center. Participants, like Notre Dame senior Brennan Buhr, claimed they were used the rosary to pray for an end to abortion everywhere and the “conversion of souls.” Attempting to off-put justified criticism, participants claimed the clinic was closed at the time and thus no harm was inflicted. Apparently, the closure of the center at the time has no impact on their mission to alter and change the minds of those seeking reproductive health care.

If their intention was to use the rosary to pray for an end to abortion everywhere, why not do so in a place of worship or on campus where it would be more accessible to students? That wasn’t the object or intention of their efforts, however. Right to Life Club at Notre Dame, specifically those who participated in the vigil at Whole Woman’s Health, had a clear goal: public shaming.

When a woman sees dozens upon dozens of young men and women praying for her across the street because they love her, though they may not even know her name, and ponders these things in her heart, she will be inclined to consider the life inside of her in a new light.

“Inclined to consider.” Soft language, but with a much harsher meaning. It has been proven, time and time again, that protests outside of the centers where women receive vital health care does little to change their choices, but can greatly alter their mental well-being.

It is unfortunate that our University continues to support these divisive and hurtful actions. Actions which can have drastic consequences and have a place in our wider South Bend community. Whole Woman’s Health will no doubt be a place of continued division. St. Joseph’s County’s Right to Life Club plans on regularly protesting the clinic, with “sidewalk counselors.”

All of these efforts, both on the part of the local community and fellow Notre Dame students, are cloaked in a vision of empathy and understanding, but actually take the form of public shaming and judgement. On a campus that already has so much misinformation, judgement, shame and fear, it is frightening that this rhetoric, shaded in a perverted vision of love, has taken hold within our on-campus student groups and spiraled into the rest of the local community.

Got something to say? Write it up and submit to irish4reprohealth at gmail!

Introducing the I4RH Blog

When it comes to sexual and reproductive health, the University of Notre Dame doesn’t equip students with the information or support they need. Students don’t know where they can access contraception. LGBTQ students, staff, and faculty experience alienation and harassment. Members of our community feel rejected and misunderstood after having an abortion. Sexual assault survivors and their loved ones often don’t know where to turn.

Irish 4 Reproductive Health wants you to know that you are not alone. We want to provide you with information, resources, and support. We’re also here to elevate your voices.

We are launching this blog as a resource and a spotlight. We want to answer your questions, direct you to resources, and affirm your experiences. We also hope to highlight the important advocacy work we’re doing as a community. Please stay tuned and contact us with any ideas, questions, or concerns. We’re here for you.