In Defense of the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life

The last week hasunnamed-1.jpg been extremely busy for Georgetown Right to Life.  On Friday, we sent forty students to the March for Life, the largest pro-life event in the world.  Then, on Saturday, Georgetown hosted the annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life, the largest student-run pro-life conference in the world.  Nearly six hundred students, laypersons, and clergy from throughout the country attended the Conference.  This year’s conference theme was “Working Towards a Truly Pro-Life Politics”, and we discussed the hyper-polarization of American politics as well as the failure to establish a consistent ethic of life in the past election. We at GU Right to Life believe the pro-life ideology is a nonpartisan issue and should be adopted by all. 

Unsurprisingly, however, the student-run conference was faced with hostility and opposition from our fellow students.  H*yas for Choice voiced many criticisms and protested outside of the conference, at one point even occupying the building in which it was held.  In light of our event, H*yas for Choice posed several questions to which they demanded pro-life advocates respond. Many of these objections, in fact, were addressed at the conference and its panel discussions.  H*yas for Choice, as well as Georgetown University College Democrats and Republicans, were invited to attend free of charge, and they could have found the answers to many of their questions there.  Instead, H*yas for Choice chose to protest outside, at one point cheering “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Right to Life has got to go!”  Although they refused to constructively engage our arguments and ethical stance at the conference, we nevertheless present the responses they might have received here:

  1. What is the pro-life movement doing to improve the quality of life for low-income people of color? Trans women? Indigenous women?

Indeed, these are questions we engage frequently with our programming. The keynote speaker of the conference, Reggie Littlejohn, discussed the work of her non-profit organization, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, an international coalition to expose and oppose forced abortion, gendercide, and sexual slavery in China.  As a leading expert on China’s One Child Policy, Littlejohn explored the cultural stigma against having a girl, and she shocked the crowd with the claim that more girls are aborted in China than are born in the United States each year.  Her organization works not only to expose the impacts of China’s One Child Policy, including forced abortions, but also to enable women in China to choose to give birth to their baby girls.

Moreover, it is the epitome of hypocrisy that the pro-choice movement should question our commitment to helping low-income people of color when it is abortion facilities and family planning clinics that have been used in the United States and throughout the world to diminish minority communities.  Last September, Right to Life hosted Alveda King, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s niece, to discuss the intersection of the civil rights and pro-life movements.  She described her and her family’s work in the civil rights movement, and she argued that the pro-life position is merely an extension of MLK’s desire to see a world in which all people and lives are held to be equal.  She also highlighted the eugenics politics of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, and she recounted how many of their early facilities targeted the African American population.  The dark and racist origins of PP cannot be forgotten, and because of our defense of the poor from the abuses of PP, according to panelist Charles Camosy we are the natural allies to those in poverty.  Finally, in her keynote, Reggie Littlejohn addressed how many of the international “family planning services” the U.S. now no longer supports had been the very tools used to inflict gendercide in China and India. 

After the conference, Right to Life hosted a banquet in Copley Formal Lounge to raise money for the Northwest Pregnancy Center, a crisis pregnancy center in Washington, D.C. founded by a Georgetown alumnus.  A majority of the people that the center serves are people of color, including those from Washington’s large Ethiopian and Hispanic communities.  We successfully raised $337 for the center, and regularly host collections and diaper drives to support it throughout the year.  While abortion providers have historically been used to eliminate minorities, the Northwest Center has empowered people of color to succeed by providing them with prenatal and child services and supplies, counseling, job training, and even affordable housing. In this way, we seek to substantively aid the most vulnerable in the world rather than attempt to extinguish them.

  1. What are pro-life advocates doing to prevent climate change and to protect people living in developing countries who bear the heavy burden of developed countries’ pollution?

Planned Parenthood does not provide clean water to people in developing countries.  H*yas for Choice has never fundraised to save the polar bears. Not only is this argument again hypocritical, but it is a logical non sequitur to assert that we, if we are truly pro-life, must combat climate change, and then assert that we thus cannot possibly be pro-life because we do not. While most members of our community believe that climate change is an important problem, it is not part of the pro-life movement.  It would, instead, be part of the environmental movement.  We stand simply to uphold the ethic that life is inherently valuable and that its wanton destruction is not the solution to any societal ill. 

Regardless, our panel discussions did touch on extending life issues beyond abortion.  Ross Doubthat and Kim Daniels discussed how the pro-life movement can and should acknowledge that abortion is a distinctive evil and threat to human life.  It is legalized killing of some of the most vulnerable of society on utilitarian grounds. Many of the arguments that the pro-choice community makes about the unborn and their supposed burden can easily be extended to the poor or disabled. We must, therefore, take a stand and defend the dignity of life against all opposition. Abortion is not the only way people die nor the only way human dignity is violated, and we are of course called to care about every human life. This does not mean that our movement in particular should be distracted by every single issue that confronts human lives, and it certainly does not mean that we cannot acknowledge that abortion is a very real problem in our society.  The environment is important, even the Pope himself has said so, and its destruction certainly distresses us because it lowers the quality of life of millions.  It is not part of the pro-life movement, however, and while advocacy for stewardship of the earth may employ our pro-life arguments, arguments in favor of the value of every human life do not equate to environmentalism. 

  1. How can pro-life advocates support restricting women’s access to fundamental health care like mammograms, access to contraceptives, and STD testing and still claim to be pro-life?

unnamed-2This loaded question tries to raise serious doubts about our sincerity, yet its accusations are completely false.  Fundamental healthcare has always been a key part of our movement and even that of the Catholic social thought of the university. During our panel, Ross Doubthat stressed the need to improve America’s adoption policy and prenatal and maternal health care.  While we oppose Planned Parenthood and other forms of healthcare facilities that use legalized killing as a form of healthcare, we do support actual maternal health resources.  In fact, there are nearly 10,000 federal community health centers across all 50 states compared to just 650 Planned Parenthood clinics. These health centers served 24 million people in 2015 while Planned Parenthood can only claim to serve about 2.5 million every year.  Neither I, nor any panelist, nor any RTL board member, nor any Conference board member, nor the Catholic Church, have any interest in restricting women’s and children’s access to fundamental healthcare. Abortion, however, is not nor can possibly be considered as healthcare, and we seek only to prevent murder as a solution to greater societal shortcomings.

To conclude, Georgetown Right to Life and the Cardinal O’Connor Conference have always stood with women, minorities, and the most vulnerable of society, and we will always do so. We seek to ensure that women are able to care for their children while those in the pro-choice community toe the line of an enormous corporation that profits from fear and abortion. We actively support mothers of color and their children while those in the pro-choice community can only offer the extermination of their communities as a solution to their woes. We march, and fundraise, and educate so that no life will be wasted or valued as “lesser” while the pro-choice community fights to provide lubricant to privileged Georgetown students. Georgetown Right to Life is a group that has a grounded moral philosophy that it actively promotes and lives out, but the same cannot be said of the other side.

MyLan Metzger


RTL Vice President

Co-Director of Outreach for the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life


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