Pro-life advocate Helen Alvaré opened a discussion of ideology and best practices at the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life in Gaston Hall Saturday.
The conference attracted about 650 students and advocates from across the country who were already in Washington, D.C, for the March for Life, which took place the previous day.
Co-sponsored by GU Right to Life, GU Knights of Columbus and GU Catholic Daughters of the Americas, the conference was founded in 2000 to educate and promote dialogue about abortion, the death penalty and other life issues.
“The conference is really a Georgetown conference, and we’re proud because we’re able to use the Jesuit values that we have at this university to establish discussion and to focus on the intellectual and academic roots of the pro-life movement,” Conference Co-Director Kevin Sullivan (SFS ’14) said.
Although other conferences, such as the Students for Life of America Conference, focus on similar topics, Sullivan said that this conference’s focus on dialogue, discussion and education makes it unique.
“We really want to understand why we’re pro-life and understand how to discuss with others the academic and intellectual roots of why the pro-life movement is morally just and important for the country,” Sullivan said.
Alvaré, associate professor of law at George Mason University, ABC News consultantand adviser to Pope Benedict XVI’s Pontifical Council for the Laity,described the historic, legal, religious and medical background of abortion before addressing counterarguments from the pro-choice movement and offering a plan of action for the pro-life movement.
According to Alvaré, women who are careless about preventing pregnancy are partly to blame for the rampancy of abortions in the United States.
“Women used abortion as backup for contraceptives,” Alvaré said. “They were bold about it.”
Alvaré also said that modern medical advances have ended the need for abortion when the life of the mother is at risk.
“You don’t see that almost at all anymore,” Alvaré said. “You don’t get into that situation.”
Alvaré argued that one of the root causes of abortion is the deterioration of traditional dating and marriage practices, causing many people wait longer to get married and start a family. She said that many activities are more fun for a woman with a husband and child, adding that she disagreed with arguments that that abortion is part of a woman’s freedom of choice.
“Being alone isn’t the definition of women’s freedom,” Alvaré said. “You are taking what used to be a crime and turning it into a right. Calling it a right is a serious human rights problem.”
Alvaré also blamed the widespread use of contraceptives for a recent spike in extramarital sex that often starts at a younger age and with a growing number of partners.
“People think sex is risk-free. Sex is not tennis,” Alvaré said. “It is not something a man and woman might do for fun.”
Alvaré encouraged the audience to become involved in the pro-life cause because while it can be challenging, it can also be rewarding.
“I am still pretty cheerful about this work,” Alvaré said. “It is about loving people.”
Hospitality Coordinator Louis Cona (COL ’15) took the messages of the conference to heart.
“This is a Georgetown tradition,” Cona said. “It sets a good example for other young people. I think [Alvaré] is a great example of what the conference stands for. She serves as motivation for us all.”
Sullivan agreed, citing his own personal experiences.
“I’m adopted … and the doctors told my mother that she was a young, single mother, she was scared and an abortion was an easy option for her,” Sullivan said. “She chose not to, and now I’m blessed to be at Georgetown, participating in a national discussion and getting an education.”