What initiated the need for this group and how long has it existed?
Irish 4 Reproductive Health formed in January 2018 to address long-standing issues contributing to gender inequality and sexual violence at the University of Notre Dame, and to respond to Notre Dame’s confounding attempt to restrict access to insurance coverage for birth control.
Reproductive health has long been a stigmatized topic on Notre Dame’s campus, and the administration has worked against implementing more comprehensive access to resources and information on campus. Specifically, students at Notre Dame receive inadequate education around sexual and reproductive health and incomplete information about consent. Additionally, we have no access to condoms on campus, and experience increasingly restricted access to prescription birth control, implants, and other contraceptive methods through university insurance plans. The founding members of I4RH decided it was about time for members of the Notre Dame community to take charge of our reproductive health and fight for our rights.
Who is eligible to join I4RH?
All current Notre Dame students, staff, and faculty who share our mission are welcome to become members of I4RH. If you’d like to become involved, please get in contact via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or via social media. Alumni can become involved by attending our events and donating via ActBlue. Community members not affiliated with Notre Dame are welcome to attend our public events, follow us on social media, and/or donate via ActBlue.
Why are you participating in the lawsuit against the Trump Administration and Notre Dame?
Everyone should be free to make their own decisions regarding basic healthcare with the guidance of their healthcare providers, regardless of where they work or go to school. Specifically, the right to birth control coverage without out-of-pocket costs is guaranteed under the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act, but the University’s decision (and deal with the Trump-Pence Administration) to stop covering all contraceptives creates illegal barriers to access for basic healthcare. Removing our right to coverage of all FDA-approved methods without an additional out-of-pocket expense also further marginalizes groups that, due to historical circumstances and/or systematic oppression, have fewer resources to pay for coverage out of pocket, such as young people, people of color, and people who identify as LGBTQ+.
What does “independent” mean?
Our membership is composed of individuals in the Notre Dame community. In order to preserve our autonomy and ability to speak freely about the issues that matter to us, we are not seeking institutional affiliation or funding from the University of Notre Dame. We have 501(c)(4) nonprofit status, so I4RH is its own legal entity. We are work alongside organizations in Michiana doing fantastic work to advance reproductive justice, such as Pro Choice South Bend and the Feminist Federation of South Bend. We also work with several national organizations, such as Catholics for Choice, Planned Parenthood, the National Women’s Law Center, and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
Where do you get your funding?
The majority of our funding comes from individual donors within the Notre Dame and local South Bend community. We have received free condoms from Planned Parenthood and Trojan, and grants from Catholics for Choice and Planned Parenthood. If you would like to contribute, we have a link at ActBlue: secure.actblue.com/donate/i4rh.
Is my donation to I4RH tax-deductible?
Unfortunately, no. Since I4RH engages in political advocacy as part of fulfilling our mission, we are required to have 501(c)(4) status with the IRS. This means that, although we are a tax-exempt organization, our benefactors cannot deduct their charitable contributions to us as they might for an apolitical or non-political charity.
What is sex-positive feminism?
Sex positivity is the view that consensual sexual activity is a beneficial and even enriching human experience, one that people should be free to explore without stigma and shame should they wish to do so. “Virtues” like modesty and chastity that treat sex (or sex outside of marriage) as morally wrong have historically functioned to police women’s bodies and sexualities, thus reinforcing power hierarchies along gendered lines. Sex-positivity does not proclaim that people need or ought to be having sex, but rather that individuals should be free to determine what role they want sex to play in their lives without fear of social reprobation, coercion, shame, or guilt. Sex-positivity values bodily autonomy and body-positivity, and is grounded in respect and consent between individuals.
What is intersectional feminism?
Intersectional feminism takes into account the multiple and overlapping oppressions that exist in society in order to promote a diverse and inclusive feminism. Recognizing that oppression and privilege looks different for everyone depending on gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, age, physical/mental ability, religion, socioeconomic status, etc., intersectional feminism strives to understand how systems of oppression like racism, sexism, or transphobia may support one another. It also recognizes that the struggle for gender equality must not only include and support people of color, the Trans community, and other vulnerable or marginalized groups, but must also must make their struggles its own. An inclusive and diverse feminism is a stronger feminism.
Are you “pro-choice”?
Access to safe and legal abortion is a right and we believe it is a necessity for gender equality. We prefer to describe ourselves as advocates for reproductive justice rather than as “pro-choice”; the discourse of “choice” carries with it an implicit assumption–often arising from a perspective of race and class privilege–that perfectly free choices about parenting, pregnancy termination, and birth control methods are possible. Unfortunately, not all people have equal access to reproductive healthcare resources, services, or information.
Fighting for reproductive justice means believing in people’s rights to control if and when they become pregnant, as well as people’s inherent right to raise their families in a safe and supportive environment. In organizing for reproductive justice, we are advocating for a person’s right to become a parent as well as a person’s right not to. Reproductive justice transcends the question of abortion, encompassing instead the full spectrum of decisions and healthcare access related to reproductive health that people need over the course of their lives to keep themselves well.
How does your group fit in with Notre Dame’s Catholic identity?
I4RH is neither a Catholic organization nor an official student group at Notre Dame. We are making space for the many voices at Notre Dame that do not subscribe to conservative Catholic doctrine on human sexuality. In fact, the majority of U.S. Catholics agree with I4RH on the importance of access to reproductive healthcare and consider the use of contraception to be a matter of personal conscience. As current members of the Notre Dame community, we believe human dignity means affording respect to all people to make moral choices about their own lives. Thus, the goals of I4RH are consonant with education of free human beings, a central task of institutions of higher learning, including Catholic universities.
What resources and/or services do you provide?
Right now, we hold periodic condom distributions, bringing free condoms to members of the Notre Dame community along with education on how to obtain sober, enthusiastic consent. We are working toward a goal of conducting several distributions per semester. We also deliver condoms upon request through a program we call We’ve Got You Covered. Add us on Snapchat (@I4RH8) to request condoms!
In the future, we hope to be able to provide emergency contraception and pregnancy tests free-of-cost. If you need a ride to a pharmacy, to Whole Women’s Health Clinic, Planned Parenthood, or another reproductive healthcare provider in the area, please message us on Facebook or email us at email@example.com. We can help you get where you need to go.
In addition to improving access to material resources for reproductive health, we provide education around basic sexual health and sex-positivity. We are using our platform to raise awareness about sexual violence and gender inequality, especially in our own community.
What is your long-term vision?
We envision a Notre Dame community where all people have the knowledge and resources to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, where students are not afraid to ask for help, and where people who have had abortions or are considering abortion are not stigmatized and shamed.