Common Ground Amidst Diversity: Cardinal O'Conner Conference


Diverse Movement, Trans-Partisan Advocacy, Common Ground at the Cardinal O’Connor Conference

by Christy Yao, Rehumanize Intern

The Cardinal O’Connor Conference panel began with a call to practice civility and pursuing the common good. The moderator was John Carr, Georgetown University’s Director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life. Carr asked this central question: “How do we keep moving forward in this environment?” The environment he was speaking of is what some have labeled “Trump’s America:” a world where civility and kindness are gone in the arena of discussing differences of political or religious ideologies. On this panel, obviously different points of view coalesced with one common goal—trying to find a solution to abortion.

Kelsey Hazzard spoke first. Hazzard, an atheist, is the founder and president of Secular Pro-life, a home to pro-life advocates of minority religions or no religion at all. Kelsey started off by asking the audience why people always think abortion is a religious issue, and not just an issue of human rights. Hazzard then explained that when pro-choice advocates were trying to loosen abortion laws in the 1960s, they preyed on the anti-Catholic prejudice of the time. They said the Catholic Church was the main force behind the pro-life movement. Hazzard called all those in attendance to break the stereotype of what a pro-life person is.

Next came Dr. Marguerite Duane, co-founder and executive director of the Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach Science, or FACTS. Dr. Duane said that we need a broader approach. Science is on the pro-life side, and we need to stay true to that. Doctors need to make sure they are living up to the Hippocratic Oath. Dr. Duane explained how FACTS brought pro-life and pro-choice people together in the name of science.

Mary Eberstadt, a Senior Research Fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute, then explained the faulty logic behind Roe v. Wade. Abortion on demand has caused problems such as gendercide and prejudice against those with disabilities. Eberstadt said she sees hope from the animal rights movement. She believes that bridges will be built between compassion for animals and compassion for the preborn.

Richard M. Doerflinger followed these women and gave tips on how to talk to people about abortion. Doerflinger was formerly the Associate Director of Pro-Life Activities at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It is important to start with a premise your audience shares. If someone wants to talk about God, a “churchy” argument is appropriate. For those who argue that being anti-abortion is inherently religious, Doerflinger suggests pointing out other instances where the law and religion agree, such as “Thou shall not steal.” Doerflinger reminded listeners to do everything with love.

Dr. Carr interjected by expressing how much relationships matter. If you treat someone warmly, they will be much more likely to respond to your message. Dr. Carr gave an example of a lecture he gave at Harvard. A boy who strongly disagreed with him came up to him after the talk. Instead of challenging Carr or insulting him, the boy just said, “I like you.” Dr. Carr knew that he had gotten that boy to listen to his position by establishing a bond with him.

The subject of the panel then turned to the difficulty of being pro-life and interecting in

American politics today. Kelsey Hazzard spoke of her conflict voting in the 2016 election. Donald Trump clearly treats women as sex objects, but Hillary Clinton supports taxpayer-funded abortions. Hazzard offered the solution of being involved in the primaries and even considering running for office. She commented that the rejection of pro-life democrats is not in the Democratic Party’s favor. She encouraged pro-life democrats to speak out. Dr. Duane reminded the audience that the pro-life movement is greater than a president. She also pointed out the need to look to see if the administration as a whole is pro-life. Doerflinger talked about the polarization of both parties. He pointed out that only six Democrats in the House voted for mandatory care of a child born alive in an abortion attempt. Only one of these Democrats is being reelected. Mary Eberstadt said that the democrats need to have the courage to stand up against the mainstream party.

In an age when it feels impossible to have a civil conversation, it was refreshing to see four people with different opinions focus on a common goal. This type of conversation unites people and shows them it is possible to work together. With this kind of collaboration, we can end violence and the extreme violence of abortion.


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