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Response to Right to Life Club

| Tuesday, January 24, 2017

I am writing in response to a Letter to the Editor that was published on Jan. 23 from the Notre Dame Right to Life Club. While I wholeheartedly respect individuals who are pro-life in the fullest sense from the moment of conception until death, I must bring to light the misalignment of the March for Life movement’s goal of overturning the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision with the Notre Dame Right to Life’s defense of their participation in the march.

Overturning Roe v. Wade and making abortion illegal will not eliminate abortion as many individuals in the pro-life community envision it will. Ask doctors and medical experts. Ask women in this country who experienced unwanted pregnancies before 1973. Ask the Guttmacher Institute, which reports similar abortion rates in countries where the procedure is legal and where it is heavily restricted or even illegal. Ask women living in Texas where state family planning funds have been drastically cut and where more than half of the state’s 41 abortion clinics have been forced to close.

Overturning Roe v. Wade would only result in American women taking drastic measures to attempt self-induced abortions or seek unsafe procedures to terminate their pregnancies, thereby putting their lives and safety at risk. Research has shown us over time that such extreme “DIY” attempts at abortion can result in death for the woman attempting to end her pregnancy. The National Center for Biotechnology Information found that unsafe abortions make up 13 percent of the worldwide maternal mortality rate. And while a direct link between increased rates of unsafe abortions and maternal death cannot be made at this time, the state of Texas reported that the number of deaths due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth increased from 72 in 2010 to 148 in 2012 — a period of time in which funding for family planning clinics in the state was cut tremendously.

I find the Notre Dame Right to Life’s claim that they “stand against the elimination of human life based on sex, race or disability” at odds with the March for Life’s goal of overturning Roe v. Wade because women of color and women who are socioeconomically disadvantaged are more likely to fall victim to these fatal consequences of self-induced and unsafe abortions. A 2015 survey conducted by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project found that Latina women and women who had experienced previous difficulty in obtaining reproductive health services due to factors such as cost and transportation were significantly more likely to have attempted a self-induced abortion or to have known someone who performed one on themselves.

These statistics put forth the cruel reality that restricting or altogether eliminating access to abortion unintentionally threatens the lives of women who fall into certain racial and socioeconomic groups. When scientific and medical evidence points contrary to the ideal belief that overturning Roe v. Wade will end the “dehumanization of an entire class of people,” I urge those supporters of the pro-life movement to recognize that abolishing the safe and legal practice of abortion will have severe consequences that end up dehumanizing poor women and women of color whose lives have tremendous worth.

So to truly live out their pro-life values and reconcile the differences between their club’s reason for marching and the March for Life Education and Defense Fund’s reason for organizing the march, I urge the members of the Notre Dame Right to Life club to stop vilifying Roe v. Wade and the industry that provides women with access to safe and legal abortions, and to instead embrace comprehensive sexual education, affordable and easily accessible contraception, and increased social spending on women and children. At the end of the day, supporters of both the pro-life movement and the pro-choice movement value life. Although we may never come to complete agreement on how to best preserve the sanctity of life, I hope that members of the Notre Dame pro-life community will welcome an alternative perspective and be open to productive conversations about how we can best defend and value human life.

Victoria Velasquez
Jan. 23

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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Letters to the Editor can be submitted by all members of the Notre Dame community. To submit a letter to the Viewpoint Editor, email [email protected]

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