3,534 pink and blue flags, representing the number of fetuses aborted every day, dotted Copley Lawn on Wednesday. The flag display was the most visible of a series of education, advocacy and service events organized by GU Right to Life for their annual Life Week. Traditionally held during the spring, the group decided to move the week to October, which is National Life Month, largely to raise awareness about pro-life issues earlier in the school year.
“Sometimes the student population is less aware of what we’re doing,” GU Right to Life Secretary Caitlin Barr (COL ’09) said.
According to GU Right to Life President Jennifer Keuler (SFS ’09), this year’s Life Week is focused more on raising general awareness about pro-life issues than advocacy campaigns. While GU Right to Life has typically been associated with the abortion debate, they are now expanding their attention to other pro-life issues by hosting lectures on stem cell research and the influence of politics on healthcare as part of Life Week.
“We tried to make a point only to have one event about abortion,” Barr said. “We’re trying to diversify the issues.”
In his lecture on stem cell research on Tuesday, Fr. Kevin FitzGerald, S.J., Ph.D. of Georgetown University Medical School said his goals was to promote “constructive dialogue, not simplistic solutions.” FitzGerald questioned the conventional wisdom about the utility of embryonic stems cells and reasserted the traditional Catholic belief about the sanctity of life, from conception onward.
GU Right to Life has refused to declare a position on several Georgetown-specific issues, like refusing to provide birth control and the Law Center’s funding of internships at Planned Parenthood, citing lack of consensus among board members.
In past years, Life Week has sparked debate over the University’s stance on abortion. Two years ago, H*yas for Choice hung black flags in Red Square to commemorate women who had died due to botched abortions. Controversy ensued when maintenance workers removed the flags.
H*yas for Choice responded to this year’s display of flags by tabling and hanging a banner in Red Square and encouraging its members to wear pro-choice t-shirts in solidarity. While some H*yas for Choice members felt that the flag display was emotionally provoking and didn’t align with GU Right to Life’s stated goal of increasing dialogue, they were more concerned with University’s refusal to recognize or fund H*yas for Choice.
“I don’t know how fair it is to say they’re promoting discourse when they’re taking over Copley Lawn and we’re relegated to Red Square,” H*yas for Choice board member Annabelle Burgett (SFS ’09) said. “I think the disparity is the issue. It’s very asymmetrical in terms of the voice they are given and the voice we have to fight for.”
GU Right to Life acknowledged that the two groups have not had a very strong relationship in the past, but said they would like to improve it.
“It’s not trying to be a confrontational event—it’s meant just to be something you can think about,” GU Right to Life member Jenna Himsl (COL ’09) said.
-Additional reporting by Elena Solli