Pro-life leaders at Georgetown explore 'humanizing our political system' after Dobbs
WASHINGTON (OSV News) -- Pro-life leaders explored new avenues to humanize politics post-Roe at the 24th annual Cardinal O'Connor Conference on Life on Jan. 21. The conference was organized by pro-life students, the day after the 50th March for Life, and was protested by pro-choice students, mirroring the "cultural crossroads" beyond its campus that speakers discussed.
Representatives from a wide array of pro-life groups discussed ways to broaden the social safety net or implement new pro-family initiatives, such as a recent proposal to make childbirth free of out-of-pocket costs.
The conference, organized by Georgetown University students, is typically held the day before or after the annual March for Life in Washington, according to the university. It was first held in 2000 and later named in honor of the late Cardinal John O'Connor, who was archbishop of New York, a Georgetown University alumnus, and founder of the Sisters for Life. Cardinal O'Connor was known for his pro-life activism on abortion, but also for his opposition to the death penalty and his support for social safety net programs.
Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life and a Catholic, spoke at the conference and said the reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision has the potential to drastically change viewpoints on abortion over the coming years. She pointed out people often associate what is legal with what is moral, and so there will be new opportunities to change the hearts and minds of people who "haven't yet a full understanding of the inherent dignity of the human person."
A few dozen students with H*yas for Choice, a pro-choice group at Georgetown that operates without university approval, protested the event, chanting slogans about how the pro-lifers in attendance were unwelcome.
Mancini referenced the protesters in her remarks, saying it was demonstrative of a "reverberation in our culture" after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling. That June decision overturned Roe v. Wade and reversed the high court's prior jurisprudence that ruled abortion a constitutional right.
"I believe it shows us that we have our work cut out for us, and there's a lot of woundedness still in our culture about the dignity of the human person," she said.
The "cultural crossroads," Mancini said, requires that the pro-life movement "lead with love" on the issue, making sure to create new avenues of support so women facing unplanned pregnancies do not feel pressured into abortion.
The event featured additional concurrent speakers from a variety of organizations.
Gloria Purvis of America Media's Gloria Purvis Podcast, hosted a discussion on the impact of abortion on Black women in which she explained how addressing systemic issues of inequality in society is also pro-life. When a community faces issues like infrastructure failures leading to dirty water, food deserts, or issues with its police department, that prevents women and children from thriving, Purvis said, creating the sort of desperate circumstances that drive women to abortion.
"Abortion is not an equalizer," she said of statistics showing disparate rates of abortion among different racial groups, saying those numbers also reveal existing inequalities.
Aimee Murphy of Rehumanize International spoke on pro-life feminism. Erika Bachiochi of the Wollstonecraft Project at the Abigail Adams Institute, gave an overview of how 19th-century feminists saw abortion as a sign society was failing women.
Georgetown theology professor, Jesuit Father Stephen Fields, spoke about the intrinsic evil of abortion.
Joe Langfield, executive director of the Human Life Alliance, shared how pro-life messages can resonate on campuses.
Lisa Rowe of Support After Abortion discussed the humanity of men and women who experience abortion, while Sisters of Life Mariana Benedicta and Mercy Marie discussed pro-life accompaniment of those wounded by abortion.
Cynthia Wood of Feminists for Life discussed that to be pro-science is to be pro-life, while Dr. Ashley Fernandes, professor of pediatrics at Nationwide Children's Hospital, discussed the impact of ideology on science.
Josh Craddock of the James Wilson Institute on Natural Rights and the American Founding, discussed the constitutional case for life; Elizabeth Kirk, of the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America in Washington, spoke about adoption in a post-Dobbs environment.
Anti-death penalty advocate Sister Helen Prejean of the Congregation of St. Joseph also gave a virtual presentation.
Silas Glaude, a Georgetown junior studying global business and one of the student organizers of the conference, told OSV News more than 500 people attended the event.
Asked about the apparent tensions within his campus community over the issue of abortion and the Cardinal O'Connor Conference, Glaude said students independently organized the conference, but they appreciated the university's institutional support for their event.
"I also take comfort in the professionalism of this conference," Glaude said, adding it was a calm environment in which to have difficult conversations.
Another strength of the conference, Glaude said, is the array of different types of pro-life voices assembled, both religious and secular.
"A lot of different people have different reasons for being pro-life," he said, "and I think that's well represented here."
- - - Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington.- - - BRIEF: WASHINGTON (OSV News) -- Pro-life leaders explored new avenues to humanize politics post-Roe at the 24th annual Cardinal O'Connor Conference on Life on Jan. 21 held at Georgetown University. Representatives from a wide array of pro-life groups discussed ways to broaden the social safety net or implement new pro-family initiatives, such as a recent proposal to make childbirth free of out-of-pocket costs. The Georgetown conference was organized by the university's pro-life students and protested by pro-choice students, mirroring the "cultural crossroads" beyond its campus that speakers discussed. Silas Glaude, a Georgetown junior studying global business and one of the student organizers of the conference, told OSV News more than 500 people attended the event. "A lot of different people have different reasons for being pro-life," he said, "and I think that's well represented here."