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Panelists advocate for ‘culture of life’ in wake of Dobbs decision

Participants in the panel “A Culture of Life in Post-Dobbs America” advocated against abortion and for a pro-life movement that places equal emphasis on the life of the mother and child Wednesday afternoon.

The panel, which was hosted by the Notre Dame Office of Life and Human Dignity and the Notre Dame Right to Life club, consisted of: Danielle Brown, associate director of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Charles Camos, professor of medical humanities at the Creighton University School of Medicine; Angela Franks, professor of theology at St. John’s Seminary in Boston; O. Carter Snead, a professor of law at Notre Dame; and Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the diocese of Fort Wayne — South Bend.

Snead began the panel by emphasizing the importance of the recent Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision for their movement.

“Before we could even have any substantive conversations about how to shape the law, Roe v. Wade had to be overturned,” Mr. Snead said, arguing that the Roe v. Wade decision was “pursuant to an illegitimate power grab by the court that didn’t have any sources in the text, history or tradition of the Constitution.”

Now that the Court has tossed the power to regulate abortion to the states, Snead said “it’s our responsibility to take that authority and to care for mothers, babies and families and build a culture of life and a civilization of love.” 

Snead advocated for policies that outlaw abortion while also supporting mothers, pointing to the state of Texas as an example.

“Texas has not just extended the protections of the law to the to the unborn child but at the same time, authorized $100 million … for alternatives to abortion programs to try to support pregnancy resource centers … to help support women in terms of poverty, health care [and] addiction,” he said.

Brown then spoke, drawing connections between abortion and racism.

“There are … two thirds as many abortions in the Black community than amongst our sisters in the white community,” she said.

While African-Americans make up roughly 12% of the American population, Brown said, “some figures report that without abortion, the population and the communities would be double that percentage.”

But Brown said it is not enough to simply point out the issue of race with abortion — she said action must be taken.

“The problem that I see most within the pro-life movement is that we are all stats when it comes to the Black American and no heart. [We are] not caring about health care disparities, food deserts, safe and affordable housing, educational choice, and the Catholic Church is rapidly withdrawing from city centers. Why don’t we care?” she said.

While Brown argued that laws must be enacted to stop abortion, she also argued that a shift in the culture is necessary.

“Men and women today, really, we just want to be God. We lack a proper anthropology of the human person and a definition of true freedom,” she said.

Franks then talked about the role that abortion has played in feminist movements over the past 100 years. 

While the first wave of feminism, Franks argued, was mostly about “moral exhortation” and changing social structures to benefit women, second and third wave feminism evolved to the point where “the problem was female fertility.” The solution for these feminists, Franks argued, was abortion.

This view of feminism, Franks said, was out of touch with basic biology and “just doesn’t work.”

“Women cannot simply follow a male timetable when it comes to pursuing education or pursuing a career if they also want a family,” Franks said.

Franks argued that a worldview that pushes motherhood to the side in favor of monetary gain should be rejected by the movement.

Camosy turned the focus of the conversation to the future of the anti-abortion cause.

“Just as a quarterback needs to lead his receiver and throw the ball, not where he is now, but where he will be in a few seconds,” Camosy said, “so we as a pro-life movement need to think about not where the culture is now, if we want to be persuasive in the public sphere, build alliances, appeal to people with different sources of ultimate concern, but think about where we’re going.”

Like other speakers, Camosy stated that in a post-Roe world, “the goal of radical equality for both mother and child” should be the priority.

Camosy argued that in order to do this, anti-abortion advocates must not be afraid to use the government to achieve their goals.

“We have been led, in my view, by far too tight connections to a Reagan-style Republican Party that rejects the role of government in favor of virtually only private solutions. There is nothing Catholic about this approach,” Camosy said.

After the four panelists spoke, Rhoades came to the stage and praised the work of the panelists and the Right to Life group on campus, saying that “respect for the life and dignity of every human being” is the “foundation of what makes a university truly Catholic.”

Rhoades touted the work of pregnancy and women’s care centers in the diocese, which give material assistance to women during and after their pregnancies.

“It’s remarkable the number of women who’ve been helped, and many African-American, many Latinas and many who are lower income people. And the method is love,” Rhoades said.

“The number of abortions in our diocese has been cut in half,” he added.

Concluding his remarks, Rhoades emphasized the importance he places on the fight against abortion.

“Life is the first good received from God and is fundamental to all others. To guarantee the right to life for all and in an equal manner for all is the duty upon which the future of humanity depends,” he said.

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‘Still a lot of important work to be done’: Hundreds of Notre Dame students to join annual March for Life

For the first time since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, thousands of students — including roughly 500 Notre Dame students — will coalesce on the U.S. Capitol for the March for Life.

The march began in 1974, the same year the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion in the U.S.

Half a century later and after a historic ruling overturning the federal right to an abortion, Notre Dame’s Right to Life club will march alongside tens of thousands of fellow pro-life and anti-abortion activists. The club has attended the march since it began.

Yet one thing distinguishes this year’s march from those of years past. This past summer the Supreme Court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that abortion is not a constitutional right, effectively overturning their prior decision in Roe v. Wade. Now that overturning Roe is no longer a rallying cry, Right to Life club leaders say they will campaign for other anti-abortion policies and support for pregnant women.

The Notre Dame Right to Life club is partnering with the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture to plan the event, including coordinating bus transportation for those participating. Right to Life club president Merlot Fogarty said the center is “crucial in helping us to execute this large-scale event and making it a success each year.”

The club will also host a mass in D.C. for alumni and others in the Notre Dame family to attend, Fogarty added. 

“[The mass] allows us to remain grounded in the true mission of our community, to promote and protect the sanctity and dignity of all human life in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church,” Fogarty said.

Many members of the club have made the trip before and are excited to do it again this year, including first-year Martha Cleary who has gone twice. 

“If there’s one thing that stands out in my memory of the march, it’s how joyful people were,” she said. “It’s a long walk, typically in the middle of really bad weather, and yet the sense of joy and community was contagious. I’m really looking forward to experiencing that same enthusiasm and community with Notre Dame Right to Life.” 

Fellow first-year Theo Austin, who has attended the march “at least seven times,” says that his favorite experience from the event in previous years has been reaching the top of Capitol Hill before getting to the Supreme Court and looking back. 

“You can see over the entire crowd of Americans who are standing together with one mission, to save the lives of the most vulnerable,” he said. “I find peace and strength in that.” 

Historically, the march has placed great emphasis on the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Cleary said one of the most common chants in previous years has been, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go!” Currently, abortion legislation varies by state.

Yet students like the club’s sophomore class representative Frankie Machado are undeterred. 

“This year has obviously been big for the pro-life cause,” Machado said. “But there is still a lot of important work to be done.” 

The sentiment is echoed by anti-abortion advocates across the country, including here on campus. 

“Our club wants to emphasize its commitment to supporting women in this post-Roe America,” Fogarty said. “We demonstrate this commitment through our partnership with Saint Joseph Fertility Care Center in Mishawaka, our service through the Women’s Care Center and so much more. We want to create a culture in which abortion is never necessary, and no woman ever feels pressured to take the life of her child.”

Contact Matthew Broder at mbroder@nd.edu.

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Students react to the reversal of Roe v. Wade

On June 24, 2022, Dobbs v. Jackson overturned the precedent set in Roe v. Wade.

In the original Roe v. Wade decision, the U.S. Supreme Court established that women have the right to privacy with their doctor, and therefore states could not interfere with a woman’s choice to get an abortion.

Dobbs v. Jackson ruled that the right to privacy is not explicit within the Constitution, meaning it will now be up to the states to decide if abortions are allowed.

The decision has already had profound impacts across the country, but on a Catholic campus with a number of progressive students, the controversy is even more pronounced.

Campus groups against abortion have signaled their approval of overturning Roe.

One club that has actively spoken about its positive opinion on the decision is Notre Dame Right To Life. Their formal statement on Dobbs can be read on their website. 

Merlot Fogarty, president of Right To Life, said she feels the Supreme Court has now made the right decision.

“I definitely think that Roe was wrongly decided at the very beginning. If you do read the Dobbs decision, the right to privacy really isn’t mentioned,” Fogarty said. 

She said the reversal was important as an admission of mistakes made by past courts. 

“I think this decision definitely opened people up to the awareness that there can be wrongly-decided cases, and there can be mistakes made by the Supreme Court,” Fogarty said. 

Fogarty was in Indianapolis when a new abortion bill for the state of Indiana was debated. It will soon become Indiana law that women cannot get abortions with few exceptions, such as rape, incest, health of the mother and fatal fetal abnormalities, according to reporting by the Indianapolis Star.

Fogarty said she was glad Indiana called a special session to pass this bill. She only wishes the bill were stricter. 

For instance, Fogarty said she feels that rape is “not the fault of the baby” and that abortion punishes the fetus for its father’s crime.

“We’re able to work on getting rid of these exceptions and valuing life, regardless of the circumstances of the conception,” Fogarty said. 

But there is also a side to the debate unhappy with the decision. Irish 4 Reproductive Health, a leading group in support of reproductive health access, declined The Observer’s request to speak in an interview.

“Given the work that we do as an organization and the contentious nature of the political landscape on these issues right now, we would rather not have our positions beyond that up for interpretation,” the group said in an email.

Katie Werner, communications director of College Democrats and vice president of Jewish Club, spoke for the opposing side. She said she is not representing the clubs she is a member of in this interview. 

[Editor’s note: Werner is a former news writer for The Observer.]

Having lived in the southern United States for the past six years, Werner said the Dobbs decision will lead to a harsh reality for her and her friends back home. 

“I’m very concerned, because I think that the nearest abortion clinic, like even Planned Parenthood for cheaper healthcare, is like six to eight hours away,” she said.

Beyond concerns for her female friends, Werner said the decision in the Dobbs case has religious implications. She is involved in her Jewish faith and said she follows certain expectations that her religious texts place on her that do not follow the Dobbs decision. 

“The reformed Jewish sect is pro-choice,” Werner said.

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that there is no mention of privacy in the Constitution, Werner worries it will affect LBGTQ+ rights, contraceptive rights and more.

“It’s super dangerous because they’re gonna start taking so many progressive rights,” she said. 

Werner said she and many of her friends share the same view on the situation but are unsure how to move forward because the campus atmosphere are making it hard for people with her views to take a stand. 

“I’m kind of at a loss, and there’s a lot of silence, which is awful. It’s only coming from pro-choicers, obviously, so it’s just so unfair,” Werner said.

The new Indiana abortion bill will take effect on Sept. 15.

Emma Duffy

Contact Emma at eduffy5@nd.edu.