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Club joins March for Life

Marcela Berrios | Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More than 230 students from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross have made the 12-hour bus trip to Washington, D.C. to join thousands of other pro-life advocates at the March for Life on Tuesday.

The march is an annual demonstration against Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in 1973.

The Notre Dame Right to Life Club offered students three travel options, ranging in length from 36 hours to four days. Students on the two longer trips participated in service projects and mini pro-life conferences as a prelude to the march.

“So far everybody seems to really be enjoying themselves,” Right to Life president Mary Liz Walter said Monday night. “And tomorrow should be even better. I think for most it’ll be such a powerful experience to be in the heart of the nation’s capital next to hundreds of thousands of other people, all united for one cause.”

More than 200,000 people attended last year, according to the Right for Life Web site.

In addition to a 27 percent increase in the number of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross participants, Walter said there are about 30 students from Purdue University who registered to attend through Right to Life. She said the club’s travel options were affordable and convenient for many college students.

Tuesday’s itinerary will include attending a youth Mass, rallying at Capitol Mall and finally marching from the Mall to the Supreme Court building, the Notre Dame Right to Life Web site said.

“Hopefully this will be an opportunity for everyone to be in solidarity with other people who are also fighting for the dignity and the respect for human life in all of its stages,” Walter said.

Notre Dame students traveling to Washington, D.C. for the march have been excused from classes by the Office of Residence Life and Housing because the march represents an integral part of Right to Life’s mission, Associate Vice President for Residence Life Bill Kirk said Monday.

“Right to Life is a recognized student organization and like many other student organizations with national conferences and events that are critical to their underlying purpose, they were granted excused absences to be able to participate in the march,” Kirk said.

The decision to allow these students to miss their classes, he said, is in accordance with the absence policy outlined in duLac, which says members of groups that officially represent Notre Dame may receive excused absences when they are away from campus performing duties for the University. Like many students involved in varsity or club athletic events, mock trials, choir tours, honorary society national conventions and student union board national conferences, among other events, participants of the Right for Life March were eligible for an excused absence from their classes through Kirk’s office.

“This is not the first year that excused absences have been granted for participants in the Right to Life March,” Kirk said. “Our office only maintains class absence records for the immediately previous year, so I am unable to say with certainty for how many years excused absences have been provided, but I do recall excused absences being granted for at least the last several years,” he said.

Last year, about 120 students took advantage of this option and filled three Right to Life charter buses to Washington, D.C. This year, as the number of participants surpassed 100, Kirk was “delighted” to approve their absence from class.

He said he hopes these students will be “a very visible sign” of the University’s commitment to its Catholic mission.

“I can think of few better ways to do so than through this march,” Kirk said.

The students on the four-day trip, which came with a price tag of $85 per person, have been lodged at the St. Agnes Parish in Arlington, Va. since Saturday morning. The second batch of students, who paid $75 to cover the cost of transportation and some food at the parish, arrived one day later. The third and final group, which contributed $50 per person to cover the cost of the buses, arrived this morning after an overnight drive.

But for many students, spending the night on a bus is a minor inconvenience for a chance to make their voices heard.

Senior Ana Laura Virzi said she just wants to protest abortion on behalf of “all the unborn souls that didn’t have the opportunity to protest themselves.”

From the bus carrying the third group to Washington, D.C., she said that though she is a Panamanian citizen, she thinks it’s important to make a difference in the United States – a country that may well serve as an example for other countries in Latin America and the world on the abortion issue.