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Right to Life displays memorial

Joe McMahon | Friday, October 5, 2007

Notre Dame’s Right to Life club erected 600 white crosses and 3,600 pink and blue flags on South Quad in memory of aborted fetuses Thursday, an annual tradition as part of the club’s Respect Life Week.

“Through this memorial we can help remember those children who never even had a chance to be named,” said junior Emily Toates, a vice president of the group.

The 600 crosses has been an annual tradition, and the group added 3,600 pink and blue flags this year to represent the estimated number of abortions performed in the United States each season.

“Two displays was a profound way of recognizing how large the numbers truly are,” said senior Adam Hoock, the club’s other vice president.

Around the crosses and flags stood signs with statistics about abortion. One read: “In the time it takes to play one Notre Dame football game, 600 children are aborted.”

The signs also advertised Project Rachael and the Women’s Care Center – both groups that help women deal with emotional and physical problems that may arise from having an abortion.

Roses were collected in memory of the women who have suffered and died because of abortion or developed post-abortion syndrome, a psychological disorder.

“The large crosses and the roses were dedicated to those women who have suffered,” said Mary Walter, president of the Right to Life Club. “To be pro-life is to not only care about the unborn, but to care about any loss of life, across the entire spectrum. And that includes the women who have suffered.”

The club’s primary goal with the display was to raise awareness of abortion-related issues.

“Although we know there will be some negative feedback, we are not trying to start a controversy,” Walter said. “We are just trying to raise awareness of this important Catholic issue as well as express our sorrow for those who have passed.”

Toates agreed.

“One of the important things about it is it makes people think,” she said. “And whether their reaction is negative or positive, it still stops people from being passive.”

Student reaction was mixed. Some interviewed thought the display raised awareness and was tasteful.

“I really like the fact that it is a memorial, not a protest,” said freshman Sandra Nazareth. “It speaks for itself and really grabs your attention as you walk past.”

Others thought changes could be made to the memorial.

“I think it’s a good show, but you need to display more information,” said senior Brian Bak. “They had some signs up, but they needed more in order to really inform people about the issue.”

Other students simply disagreed with the premise of the memorial.

“I think the pro-life supporters have a right to express their views with the crosses and flags, but I have a problem with the language on some of the posters,” said freshman Lauren Weber. “They say X amount of women ‘tragically’ get abortions every year and portray women who have abortions in a negative light. It’s a tough choice that some women make, and they shouldn’t be villainized for making the decision that’s best for them.”

This year, the Right to Life club received help from the University to plan its observance week.

“In the past the University was not very proactive,” Walter said. “Now, Campus Ministry is co-sponsoring Right to Life week with us. In addition to giving us their full support, they will be distributing prayer cards and encouraging priests to say pro-life homilies on Sunday.”

The Right to Life club will continue its efforts to encourage discussion on all anti-abortion issues. Right to Life Week’s keynote speaker is Dawn Parkot, a double Domer with multiple disabilities.

“We are trying to examine all different types of pro-life issues, and although abortion is the one we focus most on, we do branch out,” Walter said. “But all we are trying to accomplish right now in the short term is reaching out within the Notre Dame community and helping people learn about this important issue.

“Notre Dame students are proven leaders, and we know if we can raise their awareness now then, in the long term, they can help us expand our work far beyond our community,” she said.