Catholics celebrated the Feast of the Annunciation on Monday, when the Virgin Mary said “yes” to God and Christ was conceived in her womb through the power of the Holy Spirit. But at the University of Notre Dame, a number of students spent Monday night on campus listening to former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis describe the benefits for women of choosing abortion or using contraception.
During Mass on Monday, Pope Francis encouraged the faithful to open their hearts to God and to say “yes” to his message of salvation. “Mary’s ‘yes’ opens the door to Jesus’ ‘yes’: I have come to do Your will, this is the ‘yes’ that Jesus carries with him throughout his life, until the cross,” he said. “Today,” he said, “is a beautiful day in which to thank God for showing us that path, but also for thinking about our lives.” The Feast was transferred to April 4 because it would have fallen on Good Friday.
Davis’ message ultimately taught students at the nation’s most recognizable Catholic university that saying “no” to God’s plan for the creation of life and to the Catholic Church’s teachings on human dignity can help women achieve worldly success.
Davis — who rose to stardom in the political world following her 2013 filibuster of pro-life legislation in Texas — ran the gamut of pro-abortion, anti-Catholic talking points during an event Monday hosted by the University of Notre Dame Department of Gender Studies. The department co-sponsored the event in coordination with the College Democrats of Notre Dame, the Progressive Student Alliance, Notre Dames, Women in Politics, and bridgeND.
The Notre Dame Department of Gender Studies touted Davis’ abortion advocacy in a description of the event posted on the department’s website, calling her “a modern-day Texas heroine”:
Former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis is widely recognized as a passionate advocate for women’s healthcare and other national issues which threaten our individual freedoms. Sen. Davis prides herself on the ability to see an issue from multiple perspectives, while forging a path to consensus and compromise. She skyrocketed to near celebrity status after her historic 13 hour filibuster in the Texas Senate to stop a legislative effort that would have dramatically reduced women’s access to healthcare services in her state.
Wendy Davis, a modern-day Texas heroine, appeared on the national scene as a State Senator during her 2013 filibuster that temporarily blocked devastating legislation seeking to limit women’s access to abortions and reproductive healthcare in the state of Texas. Before that, Davis fought tirelessly in the Texas legislature to further equality for women through education, fair lending, and equal pay initiatives. A single mother from humble beginnings who worked her way to Harvard Law, Davis shares her inspiring story of overcoming adversity, fear, and self-doubt to reach these incredible heights and underscores the importance of how every woman’s story can make a difference.
The event description was removed from the department’s website Monday afternoon, but a cached version is available here, and The Cardinal Newman Society captured an image of the web page. The College Democrats of Notre Dame used a similar description for their Facebook event promoting Davis’ talk.
A question and answer segment was moderated by Notre Dame Professor Candida Moss, who has “built herself a reputation for making outrageous statements about the Church,” as noted in the Newman Society’s previous reporting.
During her talk, titled, “Rising Up: From Single Mother to Harvard Law, How Every Woman Stands to Make a Difference,” Davis referred to abortion as a necessity for the advancement of women, praised Planned Parenthood, and said the U.S. Supreme Court decided when human life begins.
Davis told the gathering of students it would be wrong for them to “impose” their ideas about abortion on others. “The issue of [abortion] is not to impose our ideas on other people — particularly when we may not understand the position a person is in, and the decision she is making,” she said, according to the Notre Dame student newspaper The Observer.
Her position is similar to the one held by Vice President Joe Biden, whom Notre Dame is awarding its Laetare Medal — the “oldest and most prestigious honor accorded to American Catholics” — despite his support for abortion. Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne – South Bend, Ind., provided an excellent response to this scandal on March 14, but so far, The Observer has yet publish any reports online exploring the bishop’s statement.
In a personal moment, Davis told students she aborted her more than 20-week-old daughter “out of love.”
“[I was] post-20 weeks of pregnancy of a much-wanted pregnancy that I had waited years to have, and … our very much-wanted child was suffering from a fatal fetal brain abnormality,” she said. “What we were told was that if our child survived delivery, which she would likely not, that she would live a life of tremendous suffering — if she lived long at all — and we made a decision out of love.”
The legislation Davis filibustered in Texas was intended to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, when children can feel pain. Davis told students her abortion was the reason she started the filibuster.
The Catholic Church teaches that all human life, including unborn children with disabilities, “must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception,” and that abortion is never permissible. The Catholic pro-life group Human Life International (HLI) describes the abortion of children specifically because of their disabilities as “nothing more than eugenics, discrimination of the basest kind.”
“Those who abort a preborn child with genetic abnormalities are saying by their actions that a baby with disabilities has less of a right to live than a baby without such disabilities,” according to HLI. “A truly humane society would not kill its weakest members, but would rather love them and support them, even if their disabilities are incompatible with life.”
“Even if a baby will die shortly after she is born, what is a more civilized response — to hold and love her in the short time she has on this earth, or cut her apart with a vacuum curettage machine?” the pro-life group continued. “It is easy to love the perfect; but how much we are willing to give to the imperfect is the true measure of love.”
Turning to issues of education and jobs, Davis told students that the “connection between reproductive autonomy and economic opportunity in this country” is “very important.”
Praising Planned Parenthood, Davis said the various services provided by nation’s largest abortion provider “allowed her to climb the ranks her mother and grandmother could not.”
“Without my access to [Planned Parenthood], it was very likely I would have found myself with a second unplanned pregnancy,” Davis said, according to a tweet from an editor of The Observer.
She also linked her views on abortion and “reproductive autonomy” to an embrace of feminism, an argument pro-life feminists absolutely reject.
Taking questions from the crowd, Davis was asked, “At what point do you believe life begins and at what point do you think it should be protected?”
“I think the Supreme Court has had made that decision for us,” she responded. Davis reportedly responded to another question saying, “Let’s remember that abortion is a protected right in this country.” Davis’ answers were clearly not in line with church teaching, but there is no indication from reports on her comments that Catholic teaching was ever discussed during the event.
Laws legitimizing abortion are considered immoral and should be opposed, according to the Catholic Church. Saint John Paul II wrote in Evangelium Vitae: “To claim the right to abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over others and against others. This is the death of true freedom.”
A few minutes later The Observer editor tweeted that Davis received a standing ovation at the conclusion of the event.
Responding to the event announcement, the Notre Dame alumni group Sycamore Trust stated in an email on Sunday: “A supporter also of same-sex marriage, Ms. Davis is a state version of Vice President Biden. There could scarcely be a more obvious contravention of the bishops’ declaration that ‘Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles’ and that they ‘should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.’”
Considering Notre Dame’s honor of Biden with the Laetare Medal, Sycamore Trust Chairman William Dempsey said, “[I]t is unsurprising that faculty units and student clubs don’t hesitate to put forward Ms. Davis as a model for modern women, a ‘Texas heroine,’ for championing ‘reproductive rights.’ … Those in governance who should check this sort of misadventure are themselves causing scandal of the same sort.”
But Dempsey added, “[L]et us not forget that Notre Dame is home to many faculty, students and organizations dedicated to the school’s Catholic mission. They are really the front line victims of these blows at the school’s Catholic reputation, and they deserve the prayerful support of all who love Notre Dame.”
This article originally appeared at the Cardinal Newman Society’s Catholic Education Daily.