Club plans on-campus Day for Life as replacement

For the second year in a row, Notre Dame Right to Life Club’s journey to the nation’s capital is canceled. For Right to Life, however, the frustrating news presents the opportunity to bring the pro-life message to campus through “Day for Life” in a way not possible in Washington, D.C.

This year marked the 49th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, and tension within the movement caused by new supreme court nominations and progressive pro-life laws made this an especially important march.

Cam White, a junior at Notre Dame who was planning to attend the march told the Rover: “My initial reaction was to find another way to make it to the march, but on further reflection, I realized what a great witness an on-campus march would be to both the pro-life mission and the Catholic identity of Notre Dame.”

The upcoming decision on Dobbs v. Women’s Health Organization has inspired a portion of the Notre Dame marchers to find a way to Washington D.C. on their own and forgo the on-campus march. Of the over 750 marchers originally set to go, an estimated 50 will still be attending independently.

Francie Shaft, President of Notre Dame Right to Life, said that although she was extremely disappointed, “Our on-campus Day for Life is a unique opportunity for members of Right to Life to be witness to the pro-life message to their peers.”

She continued,  “Our club looks forward to the march as an opportunity to advocate for life in our nation’s capital, but also bring their enthusiasm back to campus. I hope that students will feel empowered to build a culture of life and engage more with the many pro-life opportunities on campus after participating in Day for Life.”

Taking place on Friday, January 21, Day for Life will start with Mass presided by President Father John Jenkins C.S.C. and concelebrated by homilist Father Pete McCormick C.S.C., followed by a campus-wide march, and ending with a rally under the Word of Life mural.

Faculty and staff, students, alumni, and community members will all march in solidarity with the rest of the nation commemorating Roe v. Wade and voicing their opposition to abortion. Right to Life hopes that a public display featuring prominent members of the Notre Dame community will be an impactful witness to the university’s commitment to life.

According to Father Gerry Olinger C.S.C., Vice President of Student Affairs, that same commitment to the life and health of the members of the Notre Dame community seemed to be the deciding factor in the cancellation. Eleven buses taking a nine-hour ride to Washington D.C. with a significant probability of a COVID-19 outbreak proved not to be the most prudent decision for the university.

In an email to march participants, Father Gerry expressed his disappointment in sharing the news as well as his and the university’s support in witnessing to the sanctity of every human life. Adaptation around the march has been a common theme the past few years and loose plans from a 2016 on-campus march remained in place.

In 2016, Notre Dame’s travel to the march was canceled due to weather conditions, and in 2021 the march was canceled due to Covid-19. With no possibility for an on-campus march last year, the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture produced a video titled “March On, Notre Dame!” in which Law Professor O. Carter Snead emphasized Notre Dame’s role in marching for the good, the true, and the beautiful and Notre Dame’s unique role in doing this through teaching, learning, research, and scholarship, but most of all service to the most vulnerable.

“March On, Notre Dame” continues to be the theme this year but with the hopes of strengthened pro-life community and the final year of Covid-19 disruptions.

Professor Snead continued, saying, “We build a culture of life together through the work of our students—the lifeblood of this university—who without hesitation stand up and take on the responsibility to love without condition. Who by the thousands walk shoulder to shoulder in defense of the legal protection of the unborn child, her mother, and indeed all neighbors in need.”

Through the work of these same students, Notre Dame Faculty for Life, the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, Campus Ministry, and the Alumni Association, Day for Life will do its best to reflect the enthusiasm drawn from the national march while on campus.

Kylie Gallegos is a sophomore American Studies and theology major. She can usually be found near a fire, making a pretty latte, or doing yoga. Contact her at

Photo credit: Notre Dame Right to Life photo archives (independently created content)