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Dinner encourages dialogue between pro-life and pro-choice stances

| Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Although junior Natasha Reifenberg has advocated for reproductive rights in Latin America and senior Aly Cox is the president of the Notre Dame Right to Life club, the two found common ground in their views towards a criminal ban on abortion in El Salvador and coauthored an editorial expressing their opinion on the issue. Inspired by the common ground they found during this encounter, the two are planning a BeyoND the Abortion Debate dialogue dinner — cosponsored by BridgeND, Show Some Skin, We Stand For and the Notre Dame Right to Life club — to bring together pro-life and pro-choice students to discuss abortion and find areas of common ground.

“[Cox] and I both feel really really strongly about the importance of dialogue,” Reifenberg said. “I think she’s someone who really understands that, because the pro-life position is the majority position at Notre Dame.”

Cox said she felt it was her club’s duty to create a space for discussion between pro-life and pro-choice students who said they felt they did not have a platform from which they could discuss their views.

“ … The long term goal for this project is that [Reifenberg] and I want to spread it to other college campuses and see if we can get other campuses to take up this event, whether they have a pro-life or a pro-choice majority,” Cox said. “We want to show people that whoever the majority is, [they] have the responsibility to create a positive space for this dialogue and learn how to work with minority voices on their campus.”

Cox said she wanted the discussion to encourage members of the pro-life and pro-choice communities to work together — despite their differences — to serve the marginalized, especially women.

“How can we make sure they are our priority and that they don’t suffer due to our inability to work together? Because that would be a very selfish decision for either side to make, that we could not work with the other side, because of our differences and then the people who suffer from that decision are poor and vulnerable women, especially those facing unplanned pregnancies,” she said.

Reifenberg said she and Cox chose moderators for the discussions who would create space for compassionate discussion, rather than inflammatory debate.

“ … We chose moderators who can model this idea of friendship and who understand that the whole point of this isn’t [to be] the best at arguing and to be like shutting people down … but the people who can best promote discourse around a really difficult topic,” Reifenberg said.

Each table will have one pro-life and one pro-choice moderator, Cox said. The moderators will meet before the dinner to find common ground in their views.

“They’re supposed to meet ahead of time to get to know each other, start to become friends, learn more about each other and learn where they have common ground so that they can be leaders at their table for discussion,” Cox said. “They’re also going to be charged with the task of making sure the conversation stays productive, doesn’t turn into a debate, and condescending commentary and tones of voice are not allowed.”

Promoting future conversations beyond the discussion is “really key to the event being productive,” Cox said.

“I think that those kinds of real action can be a result of these conversations start[ed] at the tables at the event on April 4, and I think it would just be a greater cause for change.”










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About Natalie Weber

Natalie Weber graduated in 2020 from the University of Notre Dame, with a Bachelor of Arts in English and minors in journalism and computing. A native of Grand Junction, Colorado she most recently served as Managing Editor at The Observer. // Email: [email protected] // Twitter: @wordsbyweber

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