Here at Georgetown, and in the country more generally, this past year was particularly tough for the Pro-Life movement. And though each year we fight to enter the New Year with hope, not too long ago it seemed that 2017 would be as dire as the last. Here, we reflect on that last year and instead turn our eyes towards a year, and perhaps years to come, in which we will surely advance our cause.
The Pro-Life movement in this country was dealt a significant blow in February of 2016 with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Scalia had served on the Supreme Court since 1986 and was nominated by Ronald Reagan himself. In his time on the court, he was a strict constitutionalist and a staunch defender of life. He sought to overturn Roe v. Wade and saw correctly that there truly is no basis in the Constitution for a “right to abortion”. Likewise, where possible, he ruled against partial birth abortions and found such a procedure to be abominable. That his unique and scholarly voice was lost was enough of a tragedy, but at the time it also seemed likely he would be replaced by a progressive judge hostile to the Pro-Life movement, drastically shifting the balance within the court.
Then, in April, on our very doorstep, the GU Lecture Fund invited Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, to speak on campus. She was ostensibly invited to speak on reproductive justice, and as is required of the Lecture Fund, it was supposed to be a dialogue of sorts. This, of course, was not the case. Instead, on a Catholic campus, paid for with university funds, Richards ridiculed the teachings of the Church on life, abortion, and contraceptives. What was supposedly a conversation became a rally for abortion and Hillary Clinton. The two questions asked by the audience that sought to raise concerns about the ethics of Richards’ stance were met with laughter and were belittled by the speaker.
We, on the other hand, responded with heads held aloft to the Cecile Richards imbroglio. We hosted a Life Week and put on a litany of programming to ensure that, regardless of the actions of Richards and the Lecture Fund, our message would be heard on campus. Speakers Marsha Blackburn and Abby Johnson delivered moving addresses and presented a view of the value of life motivated not by profit, but by love and ethics. We attended a Mass for Life with Cardinal Wuerl, and hosted a bake sale and diaper drive to ensure that those for whom we were fighting would be cared for while living as well.
In the summer, however, the Pro-Life movement was rocked by a decision from the Supreme Court. In the case of Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Court ruled against Pro-Life interests. Their decision in favor of an abortion provider put into contention the ability of states to pass laws in the name of protecting the health of women as well as the actual significance of undue burden. The decision seemed to mean that there would be a much narrower allowance for health protections on abortion clinics and much looser considerations for what might constitute an “undue burden” on a woman’s “right” to an abortion. In practice, it would mean that many laws passed by the states in recent years that put restrictions on abortion providers could be challenged and overturned.
In October, again at Georgetown, we at GU RTL had one of our displays vandalized. In order to recognize Pro-Life Chalk Day, in our main square we chalked a display with general Pro-Life messages as well as a large message representing the “Love Them Both” movement. Overall, the messages called for love to prevail and attempted to end the false dichotomy between choosing only either the mother or the child. We, of course, believe that one can choose to protect both the mother as well as the child. In response to our display, however, members of the pro-choice community on campus changed the messages to those in favor of abortion or in favor of the end of the “capitalist patriarchy”. When Cecile Richards came to campus, we proudly and honorably made our message heard too, yet when we chalked the main square, these vandals cowardly hid behind anonymity and merely distorted our words.
With the results of the 2016 election and the surprise election of Donald Trump, it seems that 2017 will be a winning year for the Pro-Life movement in America. A conservative and Pro-Life judge will likely be appointed to the Supreme Court, and hundreds of other conservative judges will be federally appointed to other positions throughout the country. Conservatives also control the legislature and executive of 25 states compared to the progressives’ control of 5. Pro-Life legislation should begin to roll out with the new year, and it will receive little challenge from the federal government or within many states. Indeed, what had at first seemed like a bust year for our movement now seems like a boon. From all of us at Georgetown, we are excited and ready for another year fighting the good fight, and we hope you are too. Please feel free to join our ranks or lend us your support at any time.
RTL Media Co-Chair