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Respect Life Week aims to promote value for life, anti-abortion message

| Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Notre Dame Right to Life club kicked off its annual Respect Life Week on Monday with apparel sales on South Quad, a blood drive outside Duncan Student Center and Respect Life Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

Respect Life Week is held every October, which has been designated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as Respect Life Month. This year, the weeklong occasion will consist of 16 events promoting a pro-life message from Oct. 1 to 7.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Connell

Members of Notre Dame’s Right to Life club pose on God Quad. The club kicked off their annual Respect Life Week, which aims to emphasize the value of life and human dignity, particularly regarding abortion.

Senior Sadie Facile, president of Notre Dame Right to Life, said Respect Life Week is designed to expose the campus community to the club’s work.

“[It’s] a week centered around witnessing the beauty and goodness of human dignity, and proactively inviting the community to engage with the mission of Right to Life,” Facile said in an email.

The club’s mission, as stated on its website, is to “uphold the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death through prayer, service and education, and to help women in unplanned pregnancies find alternatives to abortion through service and support in the spirit of the Catholic Church.”

Events throughout the week include a film screening, educational lectures, service events held in partnership with local organizations, a Rose Garden memorial, multiple prayer services and LifeFEST, a celebratory event involving free food, games and an inflatable slide.

The theme for this year’s Respect Life Week is “Pro-Life is Pro-Woman.”

“This year has more of a focus on women’s issues,” senior Matthew Connell, vice president of communications for Notre Dame Right to Life, said.

Facile said pro-life and pro-women sentiments are often seen as being incompatible, but this year the club is trying to prove otherwise.

“Our culture disagrees on pro-life and pro-women being compatible, but we are stating that these are synonymous,” Facile said. “Being pro-life is grounded in a self-sacrificing love that we are called to give and receive, and through this week, we are hoping to cultivate this kind of love on campus. We want to show women their worth and their value.”

Despite the emphasis on women, the club has not explicitly called its theme feminist.

“We haven’t used the [term] ‘feminism’ necessarily to describe anything, not because we’re shying away from it … but because we want to leave [the event] a little more open-ended for people to determine what it is when we’re engaging with these issues … what it is you want to call it,” Connell said.

Connell said he is most excited for the lecture by Mary Rice Hasson, the Kate O’Beirne Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. Hasson will be speaking Thursday at 7 p.m. about the harmony between being pro-life and pro-woman.

“I think it’ll be really good and engaging,” Connell said. “She is, by all accounts, an excellent speaker and has written a lot of really good stuff on these kind of issues and topics.”

Connell recognized that not all members of the campus community would agree with the week’s pro-life message, but encouraged those who do not agree to still participate in the week’s events.

“All are welcome at all of our events,” he said. “We welcome dialogue and welcome people who have different viewpoints to all of our events.”

Connell specifically highlighted the “Planned Parenthood: New Face, Same Legacy” lecture Wednesday and Hasson’s lecture Thursday as opportunities for those with differing opinions to engage in productive discussion through the question-and-answer sessions after the presentations.

Connell and Facile also mentioned the apologetics tabling event on Tuesday as a good way for those who do not support the pro-life message to meet and speak with Right to Life club members in a one-on-one setting.

“We recognize the boldness of our theme, and our club really values dialogue,” Facile said. “In this event, we invite the student body to converse with us.”

Facile said Respect Life Week encourages radical love, which she considers counter-cultural. She credits this radical love for touching both her biological and adoptive mothers, which eventually affected her own life.

“Our underlying theme is to respect the dignities of all human beings, especially those who are marginalized,” she said. “We want to talk to people, to engage with students who disagree, in order to find these common passions and ultimately love and respect their dignity as well.”

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