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Students attend March for Life in Washington

Matt Bramanti | Thursday, January 22, 2004

Over 30 years ago, the Supreme Court legalized abortion, but for several Notre Dame and St. Mary’s students, the matter is far from settled.

About 200 students will attend the 31st annual March for Life in Washington today. Janel Daufenbach, president of Notre Dame Right to Life, said the march offers a valuable opportunity to express the pro-life message.

“We’re going to protest the 31st anniversary of Roe v. Wade,” Daufenbach said, referring to the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion on demand. “It’s very powerful to see so many people protesting this horrible law.”

Chartered buses carrying the students left Wednesday evening to travel to the nation’s capital. Later today, the students will join about 200,000 other pro-life advocates in a march from the Washington Monument to the Supreme Court.

“It’s heartening to see so many college students,” she said.

Daufenbach went on to say the marchers hope to change public perceptions surrounding the abortion debate.

“If we really want to change the world, we have to change how people view the beginning of a child’s life,” she said.

Some members of the Notre Dame delegation will also participate in a student leadership conference sponsored by American Collegiates for Life, a student pro-life organization. The conference, to be held Friday and Saturday at Catholic University, will feature an address by Bernard Nathanson, a former pro-choice activist who is now against abortion.

Nathanson founded the National Association for the Repeal of the Abortion Laws, a major pro-choice organization in 1968. Before renouncing his support of medical abortion, Nathanson personally performed more than 5,000 abortions.

Students will also have time for sightseeing tours of the monuments and memorials in the Washington area, Daufenbach said.

Daufenbach said the march has traditionally been a peaceful affair. She downplayed the role of pro-choice protesters at the event, and said the media distorts the nature of the clashes.

“The 200,000 pro-life marchers dominate the tiny, tiny handful of counter-demonstrators,” she said. “But the counter-demonstrators get the media time.”

Daufenbach distanced her organization from militant pro-life groups, who often use violent and graphic images of aborted fetuses in their literature and on placards. She emphasized her organization’s compassion.

“It’s important to remember that there are two victims in every abortion: the child and the mother,” she said. “We need to love them both.”