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Club hosts pro-life talks

Matt Bramanti | Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Members of the Notre Dame Right to Life Club hosted a pro-life conference on campus last weekend, drawing scores of students from Notre Dame and other universities.

Club president Janel Daufenbach said about 70 students attended the weekend’s events, which centered around a number of pro-life speakers, who discussed topics ranging from the use of graphic anti-abortion imagery to post-abortion counseling. The conference was co-sponsored by the Student Activities Office and the Knights of Columbus.

One of the speakers was Vicki Thorn, the founder of Project Rachel, a Catholic ministry that offers counseling to those affected by abortion, including women who have had abortions. Thorn founded the ministry in Milwaukee in 1984, and it has since spread to more than 110 dioceses across the country. In her remarks, Thorn discussed the psychological and physical problems women often face after abortions.

Thorn said women who have abortions frequently encounter emotional problems following the procedure, a phenomenon Thorn attributes to the natural bond between a mother and her fetus.

“By the fifth week, there is an infinite number of messages from the mother to the child through the cells,” Thorn said. “The messages begin at conception.”

She said post-abortion women are three times more likely to commit suicide than women who have never been pregnant, and six times more likely than women who have given birth.

Thorn added that women under the age of 18 who have abortions run a higher-than-normal risk of developing breast cancer.

Daufenbach said Thorn’s remarks brought realism to the pro-life cause.

“It’s important to be cognizant that there are people around us that have been affected by abortion,” she said.

Saturday morning, attendees heard an adress by Mark Harrington, founder of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform. In his remarks, Harrington defended the use of graphic, violent images of aborted fetuses, saying they can help to spark discussion about life issues.

That evening in South Dining Hall, pro-life advocate Randall Terry spoke to attendees about activism in the anti-abortion movement. Terry is the founder of Operation Rescue, which conference literature described as “the largest peaceful civil disobedience movement in American history.” He also ran an unsuccessful campaign for a New York Congressional seat in 1998.

However, Terry’s participation at the conference raised controversy, even among Right to Life officers. Operation Rescue has staged sit-ins around abortion clinics, preventing would-be patients and medical personnel from entering. As a result, courts have fined Terry and his organization; however, he has resisted paying, claiming the fines are unjust.

Right to Life vice president Lauren Galgano said that Terry’s invitation was a cause for concern among potential attendees from schools other than Notre Dame. Attendees came from Michigan State University, the University of St. Thomas and Ball State University.

“I took a lot of heat from kids at other schools,” Galgano said. “But he feels that he’s being unjustly persecuted.”

Daufenbach said the weekend’s events were successful.

“We were all so happy with the way [the conference] turned out,” Daufenbach said. “It was great.”

Galgano agreed, saying the conference will lead to stronger pro-life sentiment at Notre Dame.

“I was really encouraged by the number of students that came to the talks, as well as their enthusiasm,” Galgano said. “We have a very strong core group of people who are ready to be leaders.”

“The more activities we do, the more people come and show their support for the pro-life movement.”

One of those activities will be held Apr. 22-24 in Washington, D.C., when students from the Right to Life Club will participate in Operation Witness. The event is a large protest meant to counter pro-choice demonstrations held that day. Pro-life organizers have received permits to assemble on sidewalks along the pro-choice parade routes.

Galgano said Operation Witness is projected to be a huge event.

“We’re sending about twelve people, and they’re shooting for a few hundred thousand,” Galgano said.