Courtesy of Katie Forkey '19

Thousands from all across the country assemble to protest abortion during March for Life in D.C.

January 29, 2017

Students Voice Anti-Abortion Sentiments at March for Life in D.C.

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A week after the Women’s March, four members of the Cornell Catholic Community and Ithaca is Going to D.C., a local pro-life group, traveled to D.C. and participated in the March for Life, the largest annual anti-abortion protest in the country.

The trip was organized by Katie Forkey ’19, social justice chair on the Cornell Catholic Community’s Student Leadership Team and one of the three students who attended.

“[Attending the March for Life] was something I did in high school and I thought it was a good experience, a powerful experience, and so I’m hoping it will continue, but it’s not a tradition yet,” Forkey said.

Lauren Conger ’19, freshman outreach co-chair, added that the location of the buses that took to the group to the March for Life was kept a secret until shortly before they were due to leave for the group’s safety, because “in the past the group has had trouble with protesters.”

“I’ve definitely felt uncomfortable [at Cornell] with being able to share my opinions, and there have been a lot of times when I’ve not shared my opinions for fear of offending someone,” Conger said. “I think Cornell attempts to be diverse and that is the right direction to head in, and the goal is correct, I think it’s just sometimes not executed.”

Forkey said that she too has experienced difficulties openly expressing her opinions at Cornell.

“It’s definitely a struggle here to disagree with a lot of people on my beliefs about abortion and also just being Catholic in general,” Forkey said. “I do think that sometimes because of how sensitive Cornell is to diversity and almost its fear of offending people, it kind of forgets how to let people share their opinions without always being afraid of offending somebody.”

Several high-profile individuals, including Vice President Mike Pence and Kellyanne Conway, top advisor to President Donald Trump, addressed the crowd of thousands gathered for the March for Life on the National Mall.

“The March was certainly what I was hoping it would be. It was especially encouraging to see all the people from around the country who support the right to life,” Forkey said.

Just one week earlier, a crowd of nearly half a million gathered in the same space for the Women’s March on Washington D.C., whose platform strongly advocated, among other issues, women’s rights to reproductive freedom. Despite the two marches’ extremely differing views on reproductive rights, Victoria Begley ’18, president of the Cornell Catholic Community’s Student Leadership Team, described how she was disheartened by the pro-choice stance of the Women’s March and how she believes feminism and anti-abortion opinion are not mutually exclusive.

“I have considered myself a feminist for years and I think issues like equal pay and an end to sexual assault are issues that I certainly agree with, and I think all people should feel like they agree with,” Begley said. “I think it’s unfortunate that the Women’s March was unwilling to partner with pro-life feminist groups because I think many people, myself included, see abortion as a feminist issue in the sense that abortion is a direct result of society’s sexism.”

However, past all the differences, John Morton, a Catholic campus minister for the Cornell Catholic Community, along with all the students who attended, explained that “the lasting impression I had from this march was that you should never be afraid to express what you believe in, but you should always value the diversity of others’ opinions peacefully and without judgement.”