It’s a common pro-abortion claim: pro-lifers only care about the preborn baby while he or she is in the womb; once the baby is born, we don’t care what happens to the baby or to the mom. This is demonstrably false, of course — one only needs to look at resources offered by countless pro-life organizations across the country to see this. At Notre Dame, one example is their campus Right to Life (NDRtL) group. President Sarah Drumm spoke to Live Action News to tell us how they are helping pregnant students choose life.
Drumm, from Cincinnati, became aware of pro-life issues when multiple local high-schoolers committed suicide within months of each other. “I remember being so heartbroken for those individuals, and so frustrated that something about our world caused them to take their own lives. I wanted to reach out to anyone who didnt know their inherent worth and dignity, or didn’t have anyone to show them love and respect, and somehow show them that they deserved more,” she said. “Although community service had always been important to me, recognizing and promoting human dignity quickly became a particular passion of mine. I got involved in and was eventually president of my high school’s Respect Life group, a member of my church’s Respect Life group, and got involved in Notre Dame Right to Life right away upon coming to Notre Dame.”
The club, founded in 1970, fights to “promote and uphold the sanctity of all human life from conception until natural death through prayer, service, and education, and to help women in crisis pregnancies find alternatives to abortion through service and support, in the spirit of the Catholic Church.” They participate in pro-life events such as the March for Life and Respect Life Week, have multiple commissions for on-campus engagement, and also participate in community involvement in organizations like Hannah & Friends, a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of children and adults with special needs, the Women’s Care Center, and the Arimathea Pallbearers, which carries men and women to their final resting place after they’ve passed.
“We’ve made blankets for people in hospice care, written letters to individuals on death row, hosted discussions on contraception and Notre Dame’s health care policies, attended dance parties with individuals who have disabilities, prayed outside of abortion clinics, organized fundraisers for the local Women’s Care Center, and spent time with the elderly at Holy Cross village, just to give you a few concrete examples,” Drumm said. But one new service has begun to get attention: a babysitting service.
The group began offering the service this semester, although they had been working towards it for over a year after a graduate student came to talk to them about concerns she had. “In talking to her and some parenting students at Notre Dame, we realized that there really aren’t a lot of good options for childcare in the area that are affordable and easily accessible,” Drumm explained. “There is the Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC), which is awesome, but usually has a wait list, and also doesn’t accept children under the age of two. Either being a parent or being a student alone already seems like full time jobs to me. I can’t imagine doing both, and have so much respect for parents who have and continue to do so. Once we realized that there was a definite need for better childcare for parenting students, we decided to try to do what we could to help.”
Currently, the babysitting service is offered once a week, completely free of charge. Parenting students can use the time however they choose to. “We are a temporary solution to one part of one of the many obstacles which face parenting students at Notre Dame. A once-a-week child care service isn’t going to make the problem go away,” Drumm stressed. “However, since our service was started, we have received so much positive feedback from graduate students, even some who are not parenting themselves. Parents leave us with their kids while they go to class, work out for a few hours, or spend time with their spouse. Many have told us that they really appreciate getting the few hours of freedom. Additionally, I think it’s important that we are running this service because it starts a discussion – we want there to be a heightened awareness of the parenting student population on our campus, because often their voices are not the majority.”
“Realistically, a few hours of free babysitting every friday isn’t going to dramatically improve the lives of parenting students,” she added. “However, I really do hope our efforts are making the workload of parenting students a little easier, if only for those few hours.”
While the babysitting service is a good step forward, Drumm believes that colleges and universities across the country are not doing enough to help students who are pregnant or parenting. “I think there are two important steps – first, to get the right resources, and second, to make sure people know about them,” she said. “My university has free pregnancy tests on-campus, counseling, housing for pregnant and parenting students, pregnancy advocates, lactation rooms, and a Pregnant and Parenting Student Assistance Fund, just to name a few of the resources. Also, the Women’s Care Center is just a few minutes from campus and offers support and education for women facing unplanned pregnancies.”
Still, most students don’t know these resources exist. And even at Notre Dame, Drumm says that pregnancy is still stigmatized on campus, a reality that is likely echoed at other schools as well. “We need to work towards a culture of inclusion, where a student who becomes pregnant knows without a doubt that she and her child will be welcomed and supported by the community. College students get pregnant. We know it happens. But then why is it that we never see pregnant undergraduates at Notre Dame?” she asked.
For now, the Notre Dame Right to Life club hopes that one day, the babysitting service won’t be needed anymore, because the university as well as the surrounding community will offer better long-term options for pregnant and parenting students. But until then, they’ll continue to be there for these students.