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Notre Dame Right to Life club hosts ‘You Are Loved’ week

| Friday, March 26, 2021

Notre Dame’s Right to Life Club held their annual You Are Loved Week from March 21-26, which featured a variety of events including a faculty panel, a fundraiser for the Women’s Care Center and a debate on abortion issues.

Senior Mary Benz, Right to Life president, explained that the club selected the theme for this year’s week, “Life is Worth Living,” in response to the struggles people are facing amidst the pandemic.

“People have been going through so much recently — mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically,” Benz said. “COVID has drawn so many people apart. It has made life especially challenging … we want to stand together as a human family and remind everyone that their life is really worth living.”

The week’s events began Sunday afternoon with a rosary at the Grotto. Monday morning, Right to Life club members set up a tabling event on the quad outside LaFortune Student Center, where they handed out pamphlets on the club’s events as well as free Gigi’s Cupcakes.

Monday’s events continued that evening with a 5:15 p.m. Mass at the Basilica, which Benz said had a great turnout.

Tuesday night featured the “Pro-Life Vision of the World” panel, a discussion by Notre Dame faculty members that took place in Hesburgh Library’s Carey Auditorium. Mary Biese, one of Right to Life’s co-directors of education, organized the panel and explained that the panel takes place once a semester.

The panel, which focused on the current status of the pro-life movement, featured Brett Robinson, Carter Snead and Joseph Torma. 

Robinson, the director of communications and Catholic media at Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life, emphasized the importance of being physically present in today’s increasingly digital world. He explained that people’s desires for everything to be as convenient and efficient as possible have “made everybody a nobody,” because so many of our interactions — even pre-COVID — take place digitally.

“This disincarnation should be a deep concern for the pro-life movement, a movement founded on respecting and repairing the body of mother and child,” Robinson said. “We need our bodies, because they give form and materiality to our deepest longings.”

Following Robinson, Snead, a professor of law and political science at Notre Dame, spoke about the history of Roe v. Wade, relating it to similar court cases like the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey case. He explained that if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, decisions regarding abortion access would be made by each individual state.

Torma, the program events manager for Mendoza’s MBA program, was the panel’s final speaker. He discussed his experiences as a sidewalk counselor praying outside a clinic that provides abortions in South Bend and offering alternative recourses to women entering that clinic. Torma explained that most of the clinic patients he interacts with ignore him and some even cuss him out.

But the times that you are able to have a conversation and hand out the resources … you just never forget,” Torma said.

The week’s events continued Wednesday afternoon in Duncan Student Center with a carnation fundraiser which Biese lovingly referred to as “Carnation and Donation.” Students could purchase carnations from 4-6 p.m. The proceeds went to the Women’s Care Center in South Bend, which provides free counseling, resources and ultrasounds to pregnant women.

Biese said she hopes events like this one bring joy to campus. In giving out things like flowers and cupcakes, she wants people to be reminded that, no matter what, they are always loved.

Thursday night, Right to Life returned to the Carey Auditorium for an abortion debate between Sean Tehan, a junior political science major, and James Murphy, a senior studying philosophy and gender studies.

Francie Shaft, Right to Life’s other co-director of education, helped plan the debate, which could also be viewed over Zoom. Shaft, along with a team of both pro-life and pro-choice students, selected Tehan, who represented the pro-life perspective, and Murphy, who represented the pro-choice perspective, through an application process. 

Claire Reid | The Observer
Sean Tehan (right) and James Murphy (left) participated in a debate Thursday night, examining issues in the pro-life and pro-choice movements.

We wanted to hold this debate to inspire meaningful conversations on a very important topic that impacts women, men and children,” Shaft said, addressing the audience at the beginning of the debate. “We hope that you’re here with an open mind, and will leave inspired to talk about your beliefs with others.”

The debate began with both men giving eight minutes of opening remarks. First, Tehan built his argument around three premises.

“First, it is immoral to intentionally take innocent human life,” Tehan said. “Second, a child in the womb is innocent human life. Third, abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent child.”

He followed this with a point he repeated throughout the debate, that every member of the human species has personhood.

“You are a person because of what you are,” Tehan argued. “Not because of what you can do.”

Then it was Murphy’s turn to speak. He argued that abortion is morally permissible for two reasons. 

Murphy explained that in his view, humanity and personhood are not the same thing. Even though humanity includes every member of the homo sapien species, there is no plausible criteria for personhood that includes embryos, Murphy argued. 

He did not propose a concrete definition of personhood, but later in the debate, he said a possible definition of personhood could include awareness of one’s own existence, something that Murphy said could also apply to some species of animals and theoretical alien species, therefore making them persons as well.

In his second argument, Murphy argued that no person has the right to use someone else’s organs without their consent. He illustrated this point with an analogy. Murphy asked the audience to suppose they were walking past a dying man in the hospital who needed a nine-month-long continuous bone marrow transplant to survive. 

He said that if you happened to slip and fall and somehow became connected to the transplant machine, it would be okay for you to unplug yourself from it.

“Even though … he will die as a result of your actions, it’s still okay to unplug and go home,” Murphy said, “He’s not entitled to use your bone marrow for nine months … just because he needs it to survive.”

In the rebuttal that followed, Tehan argued that Murphy’s hospital analogy was disanalogous to the issue of abortion.

“The cause of death in the bone marrow donor analogy is not me, it’s the failed organ,” Tehan said. “The cause of death in an abortion is the abortion.”

Tehan also argued against Murphy’s analogy because it failed to take into account the mother-child relationship, as you and the man in need of the bone marrow transplant would be strangers.

Murphy responded to Tehan’s criticism by proposing a scenario in which a surrogate mother is pregnant with a stranger’s baby. Murphy’s argument also looked at the intention behind abortion, explaining that women do not get abortions with the intention of killing a fetus, but rather with the intention of ending an unwanted pregnancy.

Other topics discussed in the 90-minute debate included sex-selection abortions, viability and audience questions.

You Are Loved Week’s events will continue Friday afternoon with a rose garden memorial on South Quad. Benz said that Right to Life will be displaying roses, signs and prayers on the quad as a witness to the lives of the unborn that have been lost to abortion.

“We are trying to conclude the week in a prayerful way, reminding people of the beauty of every unborn child,” Benz said. “Like Mother Teresa said … saying there are too many children is like saying there are too many flowers.”

The week will conclude later Friday evening with a showing of the 2020 film “Roe v. Wade” in LaFortune Student Center’s Montgomery Auditorium starting at 7:30 p.m.

Benz said she hopes that this week’s events will help change the perceptions of people on campus who she thinks misunderstand and misinterpret the motivations of pro-life activists.

“We want to … spread that message … that the pro-life movement is a really joyful and hopeful one,” Benz said. “It’s not one of judgment or condemnation, but really a message of hope and love.”

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