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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
The Observer

Students organize Day for Life on campus after trip to D.C. gets canceled

The Right to Life Club, the largest student organization at Notre Dame, was all set to go to Washington D.C. to join the March for Life rally on January 21. However, on January 11, these plans were canceled due to rising concerns of COVID-19 and a shortage of tests at Notre Dame. As an alternative, the club held a Notre Dame Day for Life, celebrating Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart followed by a campus-wide March for Life and rally.

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But the sudden change of plans did not come easy. Notre Dame senior Francie Shaft, president of the club, said that it took a lot of time and effort to plan what is normally a six-month affair in just ten days.

“As soon as we were notified that the D.C. march was canceled, we went straight into planning for an alternate event … The Right to Life Club, Campus Ministry and the Center for Ethics and Culture worked rapidly to plan the event,” Shaft said.

Shaft added that long meetings were incorporated every day preceding the Day for Life in order to effectively organize and advertise the event.

Nonetheless, Shaft said that it was a “joy overall to plan the event with students who are so committed to this issue despite the challenges,” as well as the “enthusiastic response.”

A participant in Notre Dame Day for Life, Saint Mary’s sophomore Elizabeth Sheets said that “the march is a great way to raise awareness for the pro-life movement” and that “not enough people are aware that abortion can be harmful to the mother and that abortion is not the only option.”

Sheets said that as a Catholic, she sees life as sacred, and participates in the Notre Dame Right to Life and Belles for Life Clubs because she wants to be a voice for the voiceless.

Notre Dame senior Mary Mueller, director of spirituality for the club, said that she was especially moved to hear Father Pete McCormick during the Mass and people at the rally speak on a variety of topics, such as services for mothers in intended and crisis pregnancies, international rights and institutional racism.

Shaft said the march was “much more of a celebration of life than a protest.”

In an interview with The Observer, Shaft spoke about how the Right to Life club aligns with the mission and identity of Notre Dame.

“We are called to be forces for good here at Notre Dame but also in the world — all of these events, whether through education, service or prayer, really foster in students a desire to be a force for good and to live out their Catholic identity and prepare them to speak the truth,” Shaft said.

Shaft said the club is explicitly written in the Catholic tradition shared by Notre Dame but “welcome[s] students from any faith tradition or lack thereof.”

Shaft addressed how the anti-abortion argument has both secular and religious roots.

“In the context of the law, it should of course be rooted in secular reasons and convincing to the American population. However, in any social justice context, it is very much rooted in faith.”

Additionally, she added that although the Right to Life Club uses a Catholic perspective, it regularly integrates secular reasoning and philosophy. Shaft said that she believes there is a large misconception about the club.

“We encourage [students] to come see what we are all about. We encourage curiosity and open discussion — I think people are very hesitant to talk about abortion, but it is very important to talk about things that matter.”

To further reduce the difficult nature of the subject, Shaft and the club have implemented several events to encourage conversation, including Day for Life, Girl Talk, services, weekly prayer, tabling events, speakers, Respect Life Week, You Are Loved Week, abortion debates and more — all of which invite students with differing beliefs to engage in open, positive discourse.

Shaft also emphasized that abortion politics are only a small part of the club. The “pro-life” philosophy of the club goes much farther than just the contentious issue of abortion legality. The club fights for other issues such as opposing the death penalty and euthanasia, as well as increasing access to maternal care and resources.

She added that the club focuses on social justice at large as it relates to the dignity of human life.

“We are consistently pro-life and maintain a consistent life ethic across the board,” Shaft said.

Editor's note: This article previously misstated the event as Day of Life, rather than Day for Life. The Observer regrets this error.