About 450 people entered Gaston Hall on Thursday for the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life, a day of symposia in which anti-abortion advocates and experts discussed their views with peers from around the country.
The conference, sponsored by Georgetown Right to Life and the Knights of Columbus, is now in its 11th year. It attracted students from as far as Minnesota and Arizona, organizers said. It was a conference focused more on empowering advocates than converting opponents, said Steven Ryckbosch (COL ’11), grand knight of the Knights of Columbus. It was held to coincide with today’s March for Life, a national anti-abortion demonstration held annually in D.C.
“[Being anti-abortion is] nothing to be ashamed of,” said Caitlin Devine (COL ’10), director of the conference. “It’s something to be proud of. The conference helped people stay motivated and keep their eyes on the prize.”
Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King Jr., delivered the first keynote of the conference, in which she discussed how the civil rights movement of the 1960s is connected to the contemporary anti-abortion movement in the 21st century. She said that fetuses, like blacks in their struggle for civil rights in the 20th century, lack a voice and need to be supported in civil rights movements.
At one point King instructed audience members to hold hands with one another and stomp their feet in an allusion to civil rights marches of the 20th century.
In the afternoon keynote, anti-abortion speaker Scott Klusendorf, established author and president of Life Training Institute, discussed ways for anti-abortion advocates to defend their position and persuade opponents to understand their perspective.
“You and I have been told a gigantic lie that abortion is a complex issue,” Klusendorf said. “No, it’s not.”
While the pressures to abort might be strong, especially for pregnant teenagers, he said, circumstances do not change the fact that there is a single morally correct decision to make.
“Can we kill the unborn?” Klusendorf asked a packed Lohrfink Auditorium. “Yes, we can, if the unborn are not human.”
“From the earliest stages of development, you were a distinct living, whole, human being. You were yourself a distinct living whole human entity,” he said.
Klusendorf concluded by urging supporters to leave the auditorium and “give them heaven.”
At the conference, Fordham University’s Right to Life Club received The Thomas King, S.J. Award, a $1,000 grant that was renamed this year in honor of the late Fr. Thomas King, S.J., who had been a key supporter of the conference, Devine said.
“He was such a good friend to Georgetown Right to Life and Knights of Columbus so we decided to honor him in a permanent way,” Devine said.
The prize, formerly the Evangelium Vitae Award, is offered to especially active and accomplished Right to Life organizations at universities, Devine said. The win was Fordham’s second in three years.”