January 22nd marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the controversial 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the United States. Since the landmark decision, over 55 million have perished in a procedure that, for the most part, remains legal throughout all nine months of pregnancy. With this in mind, six Dartmouth students traveled to Washington, DC last week to participate in the annual March for Life. The March is the largest pro-life demonstration in the world, attracting literally hundreds of thousands of people from all over the globe. Vita Clamantis, the pro-life group at Dartmouth, organized this year’s trip.
The six of us departed campus on the afternoon of Thursday, January 24. We stayed overnight with members of the Georgetown Knights of Columbus, and woke early the next day to head over to center city. First, our contingent gathered with pro-lifers from other Ivy League schools on the steps on the Capitol building facing the Supreme Court. We then walked to the rally point on the national mall, where we gathered for speeches by prominent pro-life leaders like former Senator Rick Santorum. Santorum spoke eloquently about his daughter Bella, who was born with Trisomy 18, a rare genetic disorder. Sadly, upwards of 90% of children with this condition are routinely aborted.
After the speakers concluded, we began our long trek back to the Supreme Court. Along the way, our group ran into several friends, such as Sister Joseph Andrew of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. This was a pleasant surprise, especially since conservative estimates suggest that over 400,000 attended the March this year. Needless to say, the view from Capitol Hill was spectacular. A long train of witnesses stretched out across the landscape.
Following the March, our group enjoyed a catered luncheon at Pizzeria Uno’s with the College Knights of Columbus. We also attended a holy hour and social that night at the Dominican House of Studies, where we visited with Brother Thomas More, who was stationed at Aquinas House last summer.
On Saturday, we attended the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life at Georgetown University, the largest student run pro-life conference in the United States. Helen Alvaré, former spokeswoman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, gave the keynote. Professor Alvaré suggested that our pro-life views may lead us to conclusions that we do not initially expect. We also enjoyed hearing from speakers like Jennifer Lahl, President of the Center for Bioethics and Culture. Vita Clamantis hopes to hold a film showing of Ms. Lahl’s film Eggsploitation in early spring. The conference culminated in a round table discussion with women pro-life leaders such Melissa Ohden, the survivor of a failed saline abortion, and Lila Rose, founder of Live Action. Live Action is a pro-life group specializing in investigative journalism. The weekend concluded with a mass celebrated by Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington.
As we drove back to campus on Sunday, I couldn’t help but marvel at the events of the weekend. We return to Dartmouth humbled but ready to stand up for the most vulnerable among us.
Robert Smith ’14 is from North Wales, PA. He is a graduate of Devon Preparatory School, which sends nearly 200 students to the March for Life each year. At Dartmouth, Robert is a Government major with minors in Music and Anthropology. He is currently the president of Vita Clamantis.