Respect Life Month stirs up debate between students


Photo by Jordan Johnson

Individuals attended a candlelight vigil in solidarity of respect life month.

As part of Respect Life Month, Catholic pro-life activist group Marquette for Life planted flags representing the number of abortions that occur yearly in America on the Central Mall in front of Lalumiere Hall last week. 

The Catholic Church recognizes October as Respect Life Month, focusing on the sacred nature of every life and centering on this year’s theme of “Every Life: Cherished, Chosen, Sent.” 

Kaela Beugnet, president of Marquette for Life, said she appreciated the support the group received in preventing vandalism of the display.

Two years ago, the display was vandalized in an incident caused by Marquette students.

“I was very impressed with (Marquette University Police Department’s) willingness to increase security around Central Mall for our memorial of the unborn,” Beugnet said. 

Last Thursday, members of Marquette for Life gathered in Central Mall for a candlelight vigil, offering prayers for those affected by abortion. Afterward, attendees helped take down the display.

Madison Martinez, a freshman in the College of Communication, said the display is a good way of putting into perspective how many people are affected by abortion, and it was important for her to attend the vigil.

“I’ve prayed at abortion clinics in the past, and I want other people to know there are other options,” Martinez said.

The display received opposition from some, including Empowerment.

Members of Empowerment said they believe the flags shouldn’t be put up in the first place. 

“I understand that Marquette wants to be protecting students’ free speech, but if there’s something that upsetting to that many people, they should also protect students’ well-being,” Shannon O’Connor, vice president of Empowerment, said.

“I know Marquette is a Jesuit university, but they should be supporting the other side as well,” O’Connor said. 

Zoe Gunderson, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences and member of Empowerment, said the memorial is a source of trauma for some students.

“This display forces women to feel ashamed (of) their experiences of abortion, miscarriage or a stillbirth,” she said.

O’Connor said the university needs to promote more opportunities for dialogue.

“More students need to speak up. Students don’t know where to go with their feelings. No one knows the proper channels to go through,” O’Connor said. 

Steve Blaha, assistant director of Campus Ministry, said the intention of the display was to highlight how we are called to care for the needs of those touched by abortion.

“It makes us question, what concrete steps can we take to alleviate the suffering around those lives affected?” Blaha said. 

“Students seeking spiritual support, pregnancy resources or post-abortion support are encouraged to connect with Campus Ministry, as well as view the Jesuit document, ‘Protecting the Least Among Us,’” university spokesperson Chris Jenkins said.

Blaha said there is more to be done surrounding this issue.

“I hear a lot of people talking this week about abortion, but it’s just as important as other issues discussed year-round,” Blaha said. 


Correction: a previous version of this story stated that the vandalization of Marquette for Life’s display in 2016 may have been connected to Empowerment. The Marquette students who committed the act of vandalism were acting as individuals, not on behalf of Empowerment. This statement has been changed to accurately reflect the context of this story. The Wire regrets this error and a correction will be printed in next week’s Tribune.