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Conversation about Obama invitation continues at ND

Liz O'Donnell | Monday, April 20, 2009

Students and community members gathered together Friday afternoon to participate in a March for Life at Notre Dame.

The approximately 200 members of the rally ranged in age, with many adults choosing to bring their young children and Notre Dame students choosing to participate as well. Many were wearing anti-abortion paraphernalia.

“This is our first March For Life at Notre Dame in recent memory,” senior Chris Labadie said.

Labadie is the chairman of ND Response, a coalition of student groups who have united together against the University’s invitation to have President Barack Obama speak May 17 at the Commencement ceremony.

“We are a group of 12 student organizations with a common love for Notre Dame and a common cause in defending unborn life,” Labadie said. “We joined together to create a unified response and put out one voice.”

People participating in the rally met on the steps of the Main Building to pray and listen to speakers before embarking on the march down Notre Dame Ave.

After an initial invocation, Notre Dame law professor emeritus Charles Rice offered opening remarks. Rice is a columnist for The Observer.

He spoke briefly about President Obama’s stance on embryonic stem cell research and cloning, before turning his attention to the “conscious clause,” which allows pharmacists and other medical professionals the option of refusing to participate in practices that are against their beliefs. Obama is against this clause.

“(We are) honoring a guy who has started the process of removing a person’s conscious right to refuse murdering (the unborn),” Rice said.

Rice also said the way ND Response is protesting the presidential visit to the school is proper.

“This is something that’s the way it should be,” Rice said. “It’s not politically disruptive and it isn’t a personal thing, instead people are doing it in the best interest of Notre Dame.”

Before the group dispersed to begin the march, Rice advised the group to pray for the unborn.

“The most important ingredient we have is prayer,” Rice said. “Pray to Mary that she’ll take her University back. “

Bishop John D’Arcy, who oversees the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, voiced his support for the mission of ND Response in a recent statement.

“I am supportive of all efforts by ND Response or any other prayerful and dignified demonstrations by Notre Dame students,” he said.

The group has received national attention and support from people around the country.

Aside from receiving thousands of letters and e-mails in support of their mission, ND Response has also received media attention from outlets such as Fox News and various Catholic news services.

“We have had an amazing e-mail response,” Labadie said, “I have received over 2000 e-mails since we released our first statement on March 25.”

ND Response chose this weekend to have the march because of the annual Blue-Gold football game, which brought a high volume of people to campus.

Labadie said because of the game, they decided to put up the Cemetery of the Innocents on South Quad, a collection of crosses and flags.

The white crosses signify the 600 fetuses aborted during the time it takes for a Notre Dame football game to be played, and the pink and blue flags stand for the 3,600 abortions performed in America daily.

New York resident Colleen Barry attended the Friday March to show her support for the coalition’s mission.

“I have been writing bishops around the country and asking my friends to sign the online petition,” Barry said. “I was traveling to Chicago and heard this was happening so I decided to come.”

The rally Friday was the second held by ND Response since the group formed. Labadie said the group has other events in the works.