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Respect for Life Week Spreads Awareness

Series of Events, Ranging From Guest Speakers to Symbolic Memorials, Shape Fordham’s Annual Respect


Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 02:04

Photo by Michael Rezin/The Ram

Students camp next to a symbolic cross made of white flags on McGinley lawn.

After a year of planning and holding various events such as the March for Life, speeches from various keynote speakers and a conference, the Respect for Life (RFL) club closed its semester with Respect for Life Week.

Respect for Life Week or, as it was promoted by the club, Respect “All” Life Week, celebrated the many aspects of what it means to be pro-life. Each day during the week of April 16 through April 20, a different event was held.

While RFL is most commonly associated with abortion issues, it has equal interest in topics such as the death penalty, euthanasia and pregnancy resources for underprivileged mothers. 

“Being ‘pro-life’ is the summary of our philosophy, which has to be applied to every stage of methodology,” Laura Notess, FCRH ’12 and the club president, said.

Throughout the week, RFL promoted its stances on these topics, hoping to educate those on campus and encourage conversation.

“The nature of the events we ran —  we hoped we would get more of a response from people on the events or on the other side,” Joe Moreshead, FCRH ’14, said. “With neutral subjects, I would have hoped that we would have reached out to the non-club population.”

The first event, held on Monday April 16, was a speech by keynote speaker Marietta Jaeger Lane, entitled “From Fury to Forgiveness: Responding to the Death Penalty.”

Lane told her story about how her daughter was kidnapped and murdered in 1973 on a family vacation to Montana. The murderer had killed three other children, but Lane fought to ensure he would not receive the death penalty. Lane went so far as talk with the murderer’s mother, who had virtually lost her child as well.

“The loved ones who have been wrenched from our lives by violent crime deserve more beautiful, noble and honorable memorials than pre-meditated, barbaric state-sanctioned killings, which create more victims and more grieving families, and which make us become that which we deplore — people who kill people, a horrendous insult to the memory of all our beloved victims,” Lane said.

The personal story moved students.

“The very personal perspective on how [Lane] came to advocate against death penalty was very powerful,” Notess said.

Tuesday’s display was seen by those passing the cafeteria, as the McGinley Lawn was adorned with white flags in the shape of a cross. The white flags represented the 3,700 abortions that occur in the United States every day.

The display captured the attention of several students, many of whom stopped to talk to RFL representatives.

“We got positive responses and negative,” Notess said. “It’s an emotional topic and triggers emotional responses in people.” 

Not only was the topic of abortion controversial, but so, too, was RFL’s use of the cross itself.

“When I was working my shift for the cross display, someone asked me why it is shaped in a cross and someone else jumped in to say that the cross that it is a symbol for a lot of different faiths, not just Catholics,” Amy Gembara, FCRH ’14, said in light of her experience. 

Some other ideas the group had were to form a heart or a fetus but, according to RFL, the cross served best as a memorial to the aborted. The club held an intimate candlelight vigil at the cross.

“Members read interdenominational prayer, prayed for mothers in crisis and people on death row,” Moreshead said. “It was expected to be a smaller event, with 20 people mostly members of the club.”

In years past, the club had issues with the destruction of its displays. To prevent that, club members camped out overnight. To pass the time, they said the rosary every few hours and sang show tunes and Irish pub songs.

On Wednesday, April 18, keynote speaker Dr. Anne Speckhard of Georgetown University Medical Center’s psychiatry department gave the speech “Abortion: The Politically Incorrect Trauma.” Speckhard approached the psychological effects of abortion from an empirical standpoint.

“She did not have a stance on abortion, but kept it open for both sides,” Notess said. “Her purpose was to display the research.”

Speckhard told stories of women who suffered trauma from their abortions. One mother who had previously terminated a pregnancy decided to keep her next child. When her child would cry at night, however, she could not go past the door to get her baby because she saw what she believed to be a demon in the rocking chair telling her, “Don’t touch that baby.”

This was not believed to be postpartum depression because it occurred beyond the first month of the child’s birth, but rather post-traumatic stress disorder, which can manifest itself months or years after a traumatic event. After the speaker’s presentation, counseling services were offered to anyone who might need it, in light of the traumatic effects of abortion.

Thursday, April 19, was the fifth annual Robert Byrn Award Reception. Mary D’Ablemont was the recipient of this year’s award.

“Each year, we give an award to someone doing pro-life work in the greater Fordham community,” Notess said.

 In 1954, D’Ablemont was one of only three female students on campus. Since then, she has gone on to open a maternity home and a pregnancy care network in Yonkers.

“It was a small but lovely ceremony, a way of saying thank you for the work you have done,” Megan Langston, FCRH ’14,  said.

Friday, April 20, the final day, was spent tabling in the McGinley Center as a part of the awareness campaign. Club members handed out fliers with abortion statistics: 41 percent of reported pregnancies in America in 2010 were terminated, according to the website The website also stated that 51 percent of pregnancies were terminated in the Bronx in 2010.

Over the course of the week, the club reached out through a series of events to a variety of audiences in the hopes of educating the Fordham community. 

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