Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Thursday, May 23, 2024
The Observer

A fuller picture of pro-life

“I have learned that oppression and the intolerance of difference come in all shapes and sexes and colors and sexualities; and that among those of us who share the goals of liberation and a workable future for our children, there can be no hierarchies of oppression.” - Audre Lorde, 1983

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend the kickoff event for StaND Against Hate Week, the GRC’s annual initiative that works to foster dialogue on issues of discrimination, as well as promote the human dignity of people from all identities. This first event was a panel titled “Is ‘Black Lives Matter’ a Pro-Life Issue?,” featuring speakers from the McGrath Institute and the Center for Social Concerns, alongside Dr. Shawnee Daniels-Sykes, the only black Catholic female healthcare ethicist in the United States. As a Catholic myself, I have often found myself dismayed at the separation I see between the pro-life movement and the other issues of social justice that I wish to support. Like the panelists noted, the pro-life movement is usually imagined to have started with Roe v. Wade in 1973, and thus it seems that the only issue at its core is the matter of abortion. However, in reality, the movement traces back much further than that. Its roots can be found in the long history of the Church fighting for the life and dignity of the human person, which includes not only the fight against abortion, but also against other threats to human life as well. Catholic Social Teaching tells us that life at all stages should be respected, from conception to natural death. Abortion, of course, concerns the first stage of life — conception — but what of natural death? Was the 2014 shooting of Tamir Rice at twelve years old a “natural death?” What about the death of John Crawford III, a father shot in a Walmart while shopping for his sons? These examples were just two of the many cases that Dr. Daniel-Sykes cited from the Black Lives Matter movement which betray and violate the dignity of the human person.

But despite the disregard for life that these shootings demonstrate, Black Lives Matter (BLM) has not picked up the same momentum on Notre Dame’s campus that the anti-abortion movement has, even though they both involve a pro-life stance. Why is that? Perhaps it is the impression that the unborn are, as they are often described, the “most vulnerable” and thus the most deserving of protection and support. However, while it is true that the unborn are more defenseless than any other group, it is clear that we can not use this as a reason to ignore the sufferings and struggles of other demographics. As black lesbian feminist Audre Lorde said, “there can be no hierarchy of oppressions.” When the oppression of one group is set above the oppression of another, or when the liberties of some come at the cost of others, the fullness of human dignity can never be truly realized. If we are to listen to the Church, each and every life, regardless of age or skin color, has incalculable worth, and we cannot fight against the abortion of the unborn while the bodies of black men and black women lie in our streets.

Therefore, as we continue with StaND Against Hate Week, I invite you to contemplate what life includes in its entirety, and accordingly, how the pro-life movement calls us to respond to various issues of violence and discrimination. Other events this week include Thursday’s Transgender Day of Remembrance, recognizing those who have been murdered for their gender identity; this event is co-sponsored by the Right to Life Club, and the full schedule for the week can be found at I know that some of the events may make some students feel uncomfortable, and that it can be difficult to understand the story of a group that is not your own. However, I hope that as a united campus, we can grow together, and remember that every life, no matter what, is worth fighting for.

Alyssa Ngo is a senior studying PLS and English with a minor in Education, Schooling and Society. She currently serves as the chair of Diversity Council.

The Diversity Council of Notre Dame advocates for awareness, understanding and acceptance on issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and other intersectional identities in the Notre Dame community. The viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Diversity Council, but are the individual opinions of the author. You can contact Diversity Council at

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.