Joseph McMahon | Monday, October 12, 2009
Late Thursday night while walking back from DeBartolo Quad, a friend and I stumbled upon something quite shocking – a graveyard in the middle of South Quad. And I thought Halloween was at the end of October!
I’m just kidding. As soon as we saw the crosses, the myriad blue and pink flags and the signs extolling the horrible nature of abortion, we both immediately knew what we were seeing.
The annual public protest staged by Notre Dame’s Right to Life Group originally shocked me when I arrived as a freshman two years ago. Since then the act has become repetitive, to the point where my only reaction this year was to keep on walking.
The major issue that I have with the annual graveyard protest has nothing to do with my views on abortion. Rather, my opposition is based on the grounds that radical protests, such as the South Quad display, totally transform what could be an intellectual discussion about a serious issue into a screaming match on par with what has recently been seen at “town halls” around the country.
If the goal of the graveyard is to convert pro-choicers on campus or at least encourage them to consider a different point of view, then allow me to be the first to tell the Right to Life Club that they are failing miserably.
My pro-choice friends have generally all have the same reaction. Most of them just laugh it off, considering it one of Notre Dame’s many quirks while postulating about the stability of the mental health of those responsible.
The problem with just “laughing it off” is many pro-choice people label the other side of this debate as crazy, religious lunatics who believe condoms are the devil’s latex gloves.
But, as someone who has talked to numerous people about the issue, I have found that many of the points made by both sides are legitimate and informed by extensive scientific research and moral reflection.
Believe it or not, Notre Dame actually does have a history of supporting academic debate on this issue (although allow me to stress the word academic). And I am not simply talking about President Barack Obama’s Commencement address last year.
On Sept. 13, 1984, then-New York Governor Mario Cuomo gave a speech at Notre Dame about how his identity as a politician sworn to uphold the Constitution might be in conflict with his identity as a Catholic. Cuomo said his private beliefs as a Catholic did not allow him to curb what he considered to be a right under his interpretation of the Constitution.
The speech was met with extreme criticism, but was a legitimate examination of the abortion question from one man’s perspective. And, in the end, it was more persuasive in forming my opinion on the issue then the graveyard taking place on South Quad will ever be.