Gannon University students are heading to Washington, D.C., on Monday to participate in the 39th annual March for Life, held every year to protest the passing of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion.
Joe Caulfield, a seminarian, and junior philosophy major, who is in charge of public relations for Students for Life, a group that organizes student participation in the event, said that 17 students are going this year. They will meet up with the Erie organization People for Life to go to Washington, D.C., in buses on Sunday night.
Students will attend Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception before heading to a pre-march rally held at the National Mall at 12:30 p.m., which will be followed directly by the march. After the march, Rep. Mike Kelly and Sen. Pat Toomey – the anti-abortion representatives for Erie and Pennsylvania, respectively – will host a reception.
Caulfield said he believes abortion is an issue that is often swept under the rug, because people don’t want to talk about it.
He said it is the mission of Students for Life to be a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves.
He said that although there are a lot of important issues – such as the economy and poverty – he believes the abortion issue is vitally important. “If you don’t get a chance at life then none of these problems matter.”
James Erdman, a senior philosophy major, said he will attend the march this year, as he has for the past several years.
He said it’s important for people to understand that those opposed to abortion aren’t motivated by anger, just sadness about what they consider a great injustice.
“People are put off by the pro-life message,” he said. “We aren’t angry, we don’t like seeing a society without children. It’s more of a message of peace than anger.”
Erdman said the argument that abortion should be the mother’s choice doesn’t make sense, because adoption is available and abortion is a symptom of a bigger problem, rather than a solution.
“The culture of sexual morality needs to be more respectful of life in general,” he said.
Kayla Ruddy, a sophomore sports and exercise science major, is attending the march for the first time this year.
“I think people need to understand what it really means and they are actually getting rid of a person,” she said.
Matt Durney, a resident campus minister and the international student liaison, who has attended the march in previous years – but isn’t attending this year – said that it’s important to raise awareness because many people don’t think about abortion, as the Roe v. Wade decision has been around for so long.
He said the presence of the marchers in Washington, D.C., also raises awareness for elected officials.
He said he felt that people often have misconceptions about those who stand against abortion.
“The pro-life movement isn’t just for religious people, it isn’t just for conservatives,” he said.
“If people want to be involved they shouldn’t feel judged if they don’t fit into these groups.”
Caulfield said students should feel free to attend the speakers that Students for Life brings to Gannon every month to learn about various issues the group addresses, including abortion.