Being pro-life through the lenses of race, adoption, and the media

Notre Dame Right to Life hosted its annual “Pro-Life Vision of the World” Panel, examining how to be pro-life through three different lenses: race and the Church, adoption and infertility, and social media. Kayla August from Campus Ministry, Theology Professor Timothy O’Malley, and English and Africana Studies Professor Ernest Morrell covered each of these topics respectively. The November 27 talk articulated the club’s aim to promote the dignity of every human person from conception to natural death, which includes everything in between.

August spoke first about the relationship between race and the Catholic Church, and how this relates to the pro-life cause. She began by asking the question, “What would you march for?” in reference to the March for Life, which draws hundreds of thousands of people to Washington, D.C., to demand justice and protection for the unborn. August then explained that in the same way as we march now, black people have been marching to defend their rights as humans for a much longer period.

She shared the ways in which black people are still suffering injustices in our society today saying, “While being pro-life includes all lives, there are some lives that need our care in particular” because of the injustices they suffer. She concluded by recalling the recent USCCB pastoral letter against racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love,” which states that racist acts fail to recognize the human dignity of offended persons. As Catholics in the universal Church, we must have a universal response to injustices, August said. She argued that we should all care about it equally, and closed repeating her question to each person, “What Would You March For?”

O’Malley then came forward to share his experiences with infertility and adoption as a Catholic. He and his wife, due to the inability to have children, adopted two children. Adoption is such a beautiful option, O’Malley explained, that there are over 2,000,000 couples hoping to adopt but there actually aren’t enough children to be adopted.

Why is this? O’Malley explained that often, abortions are chosen because giving up one’s child for adoption has the negative stigma of abandonment. This needs to be stopped, he said. O’Malley described the beautiful openness and mutual gift-giving involved in adoption, which could transform how people perceive adoption. He highlighted the gift of the birth mom making an act of supreme love to share life with others, the gift of the child bringing wonder, and the adopting couple welcoming the life.

He concluded by providing a possible solution that could enable mothers to raise their children, and create a more pro-life view of adoption reflecting radical Christian hospitality. He posited that parishes could work together to support pregnant mothers, policies supporting mothers could be enacted, and foster care systems could be supported.

The last speaker of the evening was Morrell, who spoke from his experience in media-literacy education. He described the role of the media as it shapes our attitudes toward life and sexual behavior. He explained his belief that if we shift the ways that people consume media, we will be able to change people’s attitudes toward sexual activity and lower the number of pregnancies ending in abortion.

All media have values, Morrell explained, and these values have a powerful impact on how we think, for better or for worse. He asked the audience, “What recent media have you consumed that promotes faithful, monogamous marriage?” Pro-life citizens need to produce and consume media that have pro-life values, which he coined as “critical pro-life media literacy.”

Morrell highlighted three important questions that could make us critical, pro-life consumers of media: 1) what values are being portrayed by this media? 2) what is cool in society? and 3) who has the power to produce this media? He presented several ways we can promote critical pro-life media literacy to the people such as asking younger siblings or friends these questions, being aware of the media that we are consuming, and being active users of the media that promote pro-life, Catholic values.

This is something we can all do, Morrell concluded, as he encouraged us to be joyful, loving witnesses to Catholic, pro-life values. We are all called to participate in forming a more pro-life world.

Mary Benz is a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame studying Theology and Pre-Med. She is passionate about the Catholic Faith, her big family, and being Pro-Life. Contact her at