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Week advocates respect for life

Amanda Gray | Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Greater acknowledgement for even the smallest life is at the heart of Respect Life Week, Right to Life club president Sam Stempky said.

Stempky, a junior, said the week is intended to bring attention to matters relating to human life that may not otherwise attract the necessary dialogue.

“We need a greater appreciation for the importance of these issues,” she said. “[Abortion] is a prevalent issue that isn’t talked about.”

Respect Life Week is a part of the national Respect Life Month, held in October each year.

Senior Ann Marie McCabe, the club’s Respect Life Week commissioner, said the weeklong celebration has become a campus tradition.

“This is an opportunity for the greater student body to be aware of Respect Life issues in a very prayerful way,” she said.

The most recent statistics published by the National Center for Health Statistics report 231 abortions for every 1,000 live births in 2007 — a nearly 1-to-4 ratio. According to PlannedParenthood.org, one in three women will have an abortion by the time she is 45 years old.

“We have a very loving focus on a very hurtful issue,” Stempky said. “We’re not about throwing graphic images in people’s faces, yet we want people to know the truth.”

Events already held this week include Monday’s presentation and lecture by Rebecca Kiessling. Kiessling was conceived by rape and nearly aborted twice. She speaks around the country for pro-life events, Stempky said.

Club vice president Jason Taulman said around 40 people showed up for the talk.

“As a woman conceived in rape and a family law attorney, she has a great balance of personal anecdotes and academic arguments,” he said. “Her entire existence is a reminder that this is not a purely philosophical, moral or legal debate, but in reality, human lives are at stake.”

Abortion and its moral implications can hit close to home, even for Notre Dame, Taulman said.

“As a student at this fine university, I think many of us, myself included, forget how real and how prevalent this issue is in our world, and hearing this talk was a great reminder of the inherent value of life, no matter whether it was created within the most violent of situations or the most positively life-giving marriage,” he said.

A rosary was prayed with University President Fr. John Jenkins Tuesday evening in the Basilica. A showing of the documentary, “Thine Eyes: A Witness to the March for Life,” will be held tonight in Geddes Hall Auditorium at 7:00 p.m. The documentary focuses on the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

A display of crosses will be placed on South Quad near the flagpole Thursday evening, and a cupcake sale Friday will raise money for Hannah’s House, a “supervised visitation and exchange center” catering to parents and children with limited visitation rights, according to the organization’s website.

Stempky said she hopes the events held during the Week will convey the gravity of abortion.

“It is necessary to bring awareness to life issues and the immense impact they have on all of us,” Stempky said. “The abortion issue isn’t talked about enough.

One in three women have abortions – that’s our mothers, our sisters, our friends. We want people to have all the information.”

Coinciding with Respect Life Week is 40 Days for Life, an international initiative with a chapter in South Bend. Held from Sept. 28 to Nov. 6, 40 Days for Life began in Texas in 2004.

Shawn Sullivan, director of South Bend’s 40 Days for Life, said there has been some student participation in the South Bend chapter.

“With the last few campaigns, the primary goal has been to get more Notre Dame students and faculty involved,” he said.

The event involves fasting, prayer and a community vigil at a local abortion clinic, he said.

Sullivan hopes to expand participation in South Bend’s 40 Days for Life campaign beyond its current, largely Catholic membership.

“We want other faith groups to get involved,” he said. “It’s ecumenical in nature.”

Community outreach is also part of 40 Days for Life, Sullivan said. The group will welcome Peter Kreeft, a Boston College professor and religious speaker, to St. Pius X Church in Granger, Ind., on Oct. 14.

The South Bend chapter also hosts a second 40 Days for Life during Lent, he said.

“Forty days — that’s a period of transformation,” Sullivan said. “It’s representative of scripture, and we draw on that transformative period we see repeated throughout the Bible.”