Pro-life professor highlights how abortion undermines women’s freedom

Notre Dame Right to Life opened its signature campus initiative, Respect Life Week, with a keynote lecture by George Mason Law professor Helen Alvaré. Accompanied by a trip to the Women’s Care Center, a Women’s Health Panel, and Life Fest picnic, Alvaré’s lecture contributed to a lineup of events that made for a week full of spiritual and intellectual growth. Entitled “Women’s Liberation: Authentic Feminine Freedom in the post-Roe Era,” her keynote provided poignant insight into the incompatability between authentic freedom and abortion. The lecture addressed “abortion and contraception’s effects on the ability of women to find fulfillment in career, family, and life.”

Highlighting moments and sentiments surrounding the pro-life movement in history, Alvaré focused on what it truly means to have freedom as a woman and contrasted this with popular modern-day beliefs about that which freedom entails. She noted that in present times, we are faced with a plurality of definitions as to what women’s freedom actually is. There was a tone of urgency in her call to develop a standardized — or at least widely accepted — definition for freedom. 

Throughout her talk, Alvaré presented various arguments that pro-choicers use to defend abortion and then proceeded to object to them with well-formulated arguments of her own. As has always been the case, there is still tremendous legal controversy surrounding the issue of abortion. In developing the discussion of freedom, she referenced numerous legislative cases that disregard women’s true sense of freedom. Alvaré said that “the laws will either protect abortion or protect the lives of the unborn.” She also discussed the “possibility that Roe might be overturned,” in conjunction with the need to fight for a culture of life to eventually bring an end to abortion.

The broad and generalized statements that legislative bodies make on the topic of abortion brush over the intensity of the issue. Alvaré stated that pro-choicers’ tendency to repeat themselves suggests a lack of good arguments. At one point in the lecture, she even said that these pro-choicers begin to sound like they are reciting formulas instead of addressing the moral question at hand. 

Alvaré brought light to the fact that clinical and governmental literature leave out huge amounts of data, which skews the information portrayed to the public. With such large quantities of abortions unaccounted for in public documents, the community is misinformed about important health information surrounding abortions. Many studies on abortion misguide the public, specifically the women considering having an abortion, by not giving all of the facts. Alvaré urged each person in the crowd to “be the most educated person in the room on this topic.” With increased knowledge, the pro-life movement can make better arguments on behalf of the unborn.

Additionally, Alvaré cited various references that demonstrate the lack of empirical evidence that abortions are “healthy” or “for the health benefit” of women. Pro-choicers often argue that access to abortion is a necessity for equal healthcare for women. However, an overwhelming majority of abortions are not performed for medical purposes.  The federal government has never treated abortion as a healthcare response in any literature they have released. And as Alvaré shared, “Over 90% of abortions are for social, personal, familial and non-health cases.” In response to legislators’ claims that “abortion literally saves women’s lives and is responsible and necessary for gaining women’s health,” then, Alvaré’s analysis showed that the facts do not support this line of argumentation.

Alvaré went on to discuss the terrible treatment of women after abortions; something the government does nothing about. “The federal government does not require the collection of information about abortion and its effects on women’s health.” This lack of respect and interest illustrates the government’s true stance on the topic of women’s freedom in the realm of abortion. Alvaré also shared the shocking information that the federal government does not review post-abortion health care reports. Similarly, she said that abortion clinics “do the abortions, they don’t do the aftermath.” 

Is an abortion really a healthy and viable option for women in need of medical attention or emotional support? Alvaré argued that neither the government nor the clinics will provide the attention of care that women in crisis pregnancies need. NDRtL live-tweeted the lecture and shared Alvaré’s stimulating question: “Shouldn’t everybody be interested in the effects on women of a surgery performed 3000 times a day?”

In response to recent legislation surrounding late-term abortions, Alvaré quickly pointed out their lack of support: “even those who call themselves pro-choice do not like late-term abortions.”

About forty minutes into her talk, Alvaré wrapped up her discussion by mentioning that not only do these arguments from pro-choicers seem invalid, but added that the discussion of abortion has reduced other conversation topics surroundnig women’s freedom. Instead of focusing on other issues in women’s freedom today, such as unequal pay and equality in the community, abortion has overtaken other prominent topics in women’s freedom movements. 

Alvaré emphasized that we have to “…establish parameters of freedom, what matters to you as a woman [and] what does your freedom encompass.” She urged us as students, and members of the Notre Dame community, to continue the “conversation of freedom as a prelude to the conversation about abortion.” She believes that the two topics are inherently intertwined and need to be discussed at greater length and significance. 

Sydney is a sophomore majoring in Management Consulting and Spanish. She is a resident of Lewis Hall and proud member of the Gateway 6.0 Cohort. She can be reached at