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Students lead national March for Life

Maria Do | Monday, January 28, 2013

This year’s March for Life in Washington, D.C., presented a new sense of urgency for the pro-life movement, sophomore Mary Olivia Balmert said.

Balmert was just one of more than 600 students and faculty members representing the Notre Dame Right to Life (RTL) club who converged Friday on the National Mall. The group joined 650,000 people from across the country who marched in protest of the 1973 Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion.

Balmert, who serves as one of the commissioners for Notre Dame RTL, said the 2013 March for Life was especially significant because it marked the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling.

“This trip [was] especially serious because it encouraged us to look back over the past four decades and remember how many lives have been lost in that time frame: over 55 million,” Balmert said. “Roe v. Wade occurred before I was born, meaning that when I was in utero it was considered legal for my mother to terminate her pregnancy and end my life if she had wanted. As a poster at the March said, I am a survivor.”

For first-time attendees, the record-breaking number of people gathered at the March for Life was unexpected but also brought on a sense of community for the movement, said freshman Ethan Muehlstein.

“I didn’t really know what to expect because I actually never heard of this event until coming here to Notre Dame,” Muehlstein said. “It was really shocking and refreshing to see so many people wanting to save people’s lives and stop abortion, and to be among all those people who are trying to change something in the government.”

Sophomore RTL media commissioner Andrew Weiler was one of 50 student leaders carrying the official March for Life banner at the very front of the entire crowd.

“It was great being with a group of young people leading the march, leading the way and showing people that we are a generation that really cares about this issue,” he said.

People from across the nation as well as other countries contributed to the diversity of protesters at the capital this weekend, Weiler said.

“Sometimes there can be a tendency to think that the pro-life movement is a single group of people, but going there you can see that there is a range of people who are attending an event like this,” Weiler said. “There were even people from Ireland that we saw and so a whole bunch of people converged here in Washington, forming a single group in solidarity.”

Freshman Christiann Tavitas said a group of women representing the Silent No More Awareness Campaign provided an especially moving testimony. The Christian affiliated group seeks to share the personal stories of women and men who have experienced abortion firsthand.

“There was this group of women behind us whose stories of conversion from pro-choice and pro-life gave the event an emotional quality,” Tavitas said. “Even though they had abortions before, they gathered here to show their regrets. It was just amazing how you feel for them and you realize that we need people like them to make any difference.”

 Hoping to present the celebration of life, Notre Dame’s presence at the capitol also captured attention from other supporting organizations of pro-life, Weiler said.

“People were definitely excited to see Notre Dame here in part because we are a very national and preeminent Catholic university around,” he said. “People have started to notice our presence. Also, we sang our Alma Mater so it just shows that my fellow students were also standing up for the dignity of all people and it made me very proud to be a Notre Dame student.”