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Challenging Dolores Huerta

| Friday, February 9, 2018

Does Dolores Huerta fight for the voiceless?

Next week, Notre Dame will host Huerta on campus. A social activist dedicated to labor rights, Huerta co-founded the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) with Cesar Chavez in 1962. She served as an honorary co-chair for the 2017 Women’s March on Washington. In the eyes of the world, she is undoubtedly an accomplished leader.

I plan to attend her event, which is the next keynote in the Institute for Latino Studies’ Transformative Leadership Lecture Series. But is Huerta a leader that Notre Dame students should emulate, as the programming suggests? Has her activism transformed the world in the right way? Perhaps in some ways, but certainly not on the issue of life.

Huerta began her speech to the 2016 Democratic National Convention, “I have spent my whole life fighting for human rights … for every person that does not have a voice.” The UFW’s website lists dignity as one of its four core values, which they define as, “recognizing and respecting the inherent worth of all people.” Consistent with her thoughts on human dignity is her professed commitment to nonviolence. Her website’s biography states, “nonviolence is our strength.” In a Vogue interview, she said, “ … please join the nonviolent movement. This is how Gandhi freed India. If Gandhi freed India, we can certainly free the United States from our racism, misogyny, and bigotry.”

Huerta claims to hold dear the principles of human life and dignity. But has she thought seriously about what those principles require? For Huerta to be a truly transformative leader that we should emulate, we should expect consistency between her professed principle of dignity and nonviolence and her stance on abortion, an issue which generally challenges us to consider whether we will act for ourselves or act in defense of those who cannot defend themselves. If there is inconsistency, we should insist on well-reasoned arguments that seriously consider opposing arguments.

How does Huerta, the Catholic mother of 11 children, reason on abortion? She is not pro-life, a position consistent with dignity and nonviolence. She is pro-choice. Does she offer well-reasoned arguments for this position that address seriously the arguments from the pro-life position? I offer these quotes from Huerta:

“You can’t be a true feminist until you understand the woman’s right to abortion.”

From an interview with the Huffington Post:

“We don’t want to go against the church but … we have to think about ourselves first.

“And all these people who have issues with having an abortion, what do they do for children? Even the church, what does the church do to help us raise our children? Do they provide infant centers? Do they provide resources for our teenagers? [Abortion is] a social issue that they like to focus on and it’s divisive, and it’s the only reason that they do it.”

From these statements, it seems that Huerta believes the pro-life feminists are not as committed to women’s rights as she is, and self-interest precedes Church teaching. Not only that, but sewing division is the sole intention of all those who seek to uphold the sanctity of unborn life by fighting a culture which looks indifferently, and perhaps even approvingly, on abortion.

I am not suggesting Catholic leaders following Catholic principles are the only worthy examples of leadership for Notre Dame students. The concern I am raising is about the striking inconsistency between her professed principles and her radical stance on abortion. At the very least, the deep difference in Huerta’s thoughts and actions –– between professing the principles of dignity and nonviolence and taking a radical pro-choice stance without confronting the pro-life position at its strongest –– calls into question her advertised status as a transformative leader we should seek to emulate.

Ms. Huerta: You could be a powerful and persuasive advocate for the pro-life movement. I urge you to consider how your statements negatively impact the unborn, who have no voice, and how you could instead contribute to developing a culture that deeply respects human life and dignity. Doing good work for labor rights and women and defending the unborn are not opposed to each other. You risk losing a few friends at the Huffington Post, but you could bridge a deep partisan divide.

Nick Marr is a sophomore from San Diego, California. He is majoring in history and political science with a certificate in international security. His favorite liberal is John F. Kennedy. He knows there could be opinions other than his own, and he encourages them to be directed to [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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