Panelists examine the modern pro-life movement
Rachel O'Grady | Tuesday, October 4, 2016
As part of Notre Dame Right to Life’s Respect Life Week, panelists participated in a discussion on the value of a holistically pro-life world.
Jessica Keating, director of the office of human dignity and life initiatives, said she went through a journey from a pro-choice to a pro-life feminist.
“I have always been a feminist, but I have not always been pro-life,” she said. “Pro-life feminism is not really new, even though it sounds new. It’s the radical idea that abortion is not only not liberating for women, but is actually harmful for women.”
There are some discrepancies on what it means to be a pro-life feminist, according to Keating.
“Pro-life feminism has been called an oxymoron by some and a redundancy by others,” she said.
Keating said the way to address abortion is to pay special attention to the needs of pregnant women.
“We need to attend to the very real needs of women who are going through a crisis pregnancy,” Keating said. “When my friend asked me for money to help pay for her abortion, I realized what my friend needed was not an abortion — it was support. What she needed was childcare help. What she needed was support to help the life of her now eight-year-old daughter.”
Mary O’Callaghan, a public policy fellow at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, provided her insight as a mother of a nine-year-old boy with Down syndrome.
“Our country embraces very strong disabilities-right language — the language is one of participation and inclusion,” O’Callaghan said. “It should be jarring, then, that language we use in prenatal and maternal areas is totally different. … It’s hardly language of full inclusion and participation.”
O’Callaghan said it was important to realize how disability factors into a holistic pro-life approach.
“Strong and consistent protections across the board is the first hallmark of a truly pro-life approach to disability,” O’Callaghan said. “This doesn’t mean we ignore the real problems or sufferings of the families and those disabled. A holistically pro-life society recognizes all life — even those with disabilities — as a true gift.”
Bill Purcell, associate director of Catholic social tradition and practice at the Center for Social Concerns, said understanding and embracing human dignity was a major component of pro-life efforts.
“If you take [away] the value of the dignity of the human person, all of those other Catholic values collapse,” Purcell said.
Drawing on his experience on Capitol Hill, Purcell said he has hope for change in capital punishment policy.
“Having gone to Capitol Hill for 30 years, I mean … you do hope for those miracles of change to happen,” Purcell said. “There are so many people out there working to try and figure all of this out.”
Peter Casarella, associate professor of theology, said young people must be focused on the future of policy change.
“You have to get beyond the hype,” Casarella said. “This election — it’s going to be over, so you have to figure and think creatively and figure out what you can contribute.”