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Respect Life Week offers chance to reflect on ‘Authentic Love, Authentic Freedom’

| Monday, October 7, 2019

This year’s Respect Life Week, hosted by Notre Dame’s Right to Life club, ended Oct. 6 with a rosary prayer service. During the week, the Notre Dame campus had the opportunity to engage in discussion and participate in a variety of events around this year’s theme, ‘Authentic Love, Authentic Freedom.’

“In it, we focus in a particular way on beginning-of-life issues, but it’s really a space to incorporate all the aspects of our club,” Maggie Garnett, a sophomore and the club’s vice president of communications, said. “We do service events, education events and spirituality events to draw the campus into a larger conversation about our theme.”

Right to Life president Noelle Johnson said the board started brainstorming on the theme when they arrived at campus.

“We put lots of ideas on the table, we debate them [and] we have conversations about them,” she said.

Courtesy of Maggie
Respect Life week activists participate in a prayer service.

Johnson, a senior, said the board wanted to highlight freedom in particular due to national conversations about the topic.

“In most of the debates that we have on campus and in our nation, it seems like freedom is brought up so often when we’re talking about abortion,” she said. “We believe that there is an authentic freedom in giving ourselves, so we wanted to challenge the existing notion of freedom as something that is purely about individual fulfillment and how freedom is actually found when we’re paying attention and caring for the needs of our entire community … and giving of ourselves.”

Garnett said she appreciated how thoughtful the board was about the theme.

“One of the things I found really constructive in our discussion of this year’s theme was choosing the descriptors when we knew we wanted to engage love and freedom thinking about what word described both of those,” she said.

Respect Life Week began Monday with an apparel and hype tent. The group also hosted its keynote lecture with professor Helen Alvare of George Mason University, who also serves as a consultant to ABC News. Alvare’s lecture was titled “Women’s Liberation: Authentic Feminine Freedom in a Post-Roe Era.”

“I think for the whole board, we were so excited to have Professor Alvare come,” Garnett said. “She’s kind of a hero in the pro-life movement for a lot of us and to hear her speak was really cool.”

Johnson said 115 people from campus attended the lecture.

On Tuesday, the group hosted an outreach trip to the Women’s Care Center in South Bend to learn about the services offered by the center and write thank-you notes to the counselors and the ultrasound technicians.

Garnett, who is from South Bend, said it was one of her highlights from the week.

“It was really beautiful to see the home they’re creating for the women they serve,” she said. “They have a playroom for the kids and it’s literally next door to my high school. I had done some service events at my high school with them, but to actually engage them and …  just see the work they’re doing to love and celebrate and remind these women how amazing they are was one of my favorites.”

The club hosted a panel discussion Wednesday about women’s healthcare in South Bend, which included a local pediatrician, an attorney and the director of the Women’s Care Center.

Garnett said the panel is particularly effective in sharing ideas with the campus.

“You get a variety of diverse voices,” she said. “ … When there’s so much that we want to talk about and share with our campus but we have five days to do it, a panel is a great way to begin to bring a lot of those voices.”

The club also hosted an apologetics table on Fieldhouse Mall on Wednesday, which Johnson said was one of her favorite events.

The table featured a posted that said “Abortion is wrong at every stage? What do you think?” and allowed people to put sticky notes on the timeline of fetal development as to where they thought life begins.

“I really love all the opportunities to engage the campus in conversation,” Johnson said. “Apologetics tabling is something our club has done for the past couple years, but we’re really hoping to expand it beyond Respect Life Week.”

To wrap up the week, the club hosted letter writing Thursday to abortion clinic workers who had left their job, held its annual rose garden and LifeFest on Friday and hosted several prayer events.

“Every year we have our rose garden on South Quad,” Johnson said. “We have 300 roses. There’s a red rose and a white rose to celebrate both the unborn and the mother affected.”

Johnson said LifeFest was an event to celebrate “the joys of life.” She said it featured henna, a photo booth, spike ball and free food.

On Saturday, the group hosted a pilgrimage to the abortion clinic in South Bend for a short prayer service, which Garnett said was a change from last year. The Whole Woman’s Health Alliance opened this summer.

“That’s something that’s shifted, obviously because there wasn’t a clinic in South Bend for a couple years,” she said.

The group finished the week with the annual rosary for life. Johnson said the prayer events are some of her favorite of the week.

“The fact that prayer is efficacious and it’s not about our own holiness but really about prayer actually making a change for people and changing the lives of the women who have been affected and the lives of the unborn that have been lost,” she said. “Those are always really powerful.”

Johnson said she was glad so many people were able to come to the week’s events.

“We did really have great turnout at our events, and it was beautiful to see how many people could be reached, how many people came to the talk,” she said. “A lot of really fantastic individual conversations came out as a result of discourse on campus.”

She said she would have liked to see more conversations around the theme.

“It definitely seemed like people were engaging with Respect Life Week, but I would have liked to see more conversations about the substance of the theme,” she said.

Garnett said she was excited the week sparked conversation.

“To hear the conversation picking up on campus made me really excited in the hopes that this conversation about what authentic love and authentic freedom is would move past this week,” she said.

Garnett said while the fall week focuses around beginning of life issues such as abortion, the focus will expand for the spring week.

“In times like next spring and our You Are Loved Week, we will again begin to encounter the diverse issues that the pro-life movement holds,” she said.

Johnson said the fall week was especially important to discuss abortion since the Whole Woman’s Health Alliance has opened.

“I think also the fact that we have an abortion clinic operating in South Bend really highlighted that this is something that literally is affecting our community, it’s affecting our campus, so that brings it into priority,” she said.

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About Alexandra Muck

Alexandra Muck is a Notre Dame senior majoring in business and economics. Originally from Dallas, she currently lives in Howard Hall.

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