Reflection: Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life

By  Matteo Caulfield (CAS ‘23) and Maria Victoria Almeida Vazquez (SFS ‘25), (pictured below)

A male student and a female student standing beside a banner promoting the O'Connor conference

We came to Georgetown University because we wanted a space to engage with and contribute to Catholic Social Justice. As Catholics, the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life (OCC) is this space at Georgetown in which our calling to support the dignity of human life can be shared and discerned. The 2023 OCC marked the first Conference since the overturning of Roe vs. Wade and the first in-person gathering since 2020. The high emotions and political charge of the Supreme Court decision led to this year’s theme: “Next Steps: Humanizing our Political System.”  The OCC board organized the Conference to celebrate the success and progress that the pro-life movement has made in the last half-century, but also to equip our attendees with the tools to move past Roe into a reinvigorated pro-life cause.

The OCC is designed to support pilgrims in DC for the annual March for Life, we chose to invite Jeanne Mancini, the March’s president, as our keynote speaker. In her speech, Manicini advocated that the pro-life movement must persist at both the federal and state levels and announced her goal to grow the March for Life program by bringing smaller-scale Marches to every state capital within the next few years. At the same time, the annual March for Life on the National Mall will persist to support a culture of life on the national level. We were proud to host this discussion at Georgetown University and to help attendees from across the country understand how we students can contribute to Mancini’s vision of a pro-life social movement. We, pro-life students, were filled with hope that our witness can and will capture the hearts and minds of our campus and culture over time.  

In a post-Roe America, the OCC board also sought to construct a culture that supports women during and after pregnancy. For example, panelist Catherine Glenn Foster spoke about creating a world in which pregnancy and childbirth are materially cheaper than abortion. Sisters of Life spoke about bringing women to the mercy of God and coming to understand and heal from the stain that abortion has yielded on our society. We learned from these speakers that forming robust supportive services for women and men is key to reducing abortion and creating a culture of life. 

In the spirit of our theme, the OCC board made a point to include both conventionally conservative pro-lifers and pro-life Democrats in our speaker lineup. We believe that post-Roe, the pro-life cause needs to reach a diverse political audience in order to effectively affirm life regardless of the politics of each state. We must overcome the barrier that political and ideological division will pose in the defense of life from womb to tomb. The Conference panel this year included twin sisters, Monica Sparks and Jessica Ann Tyson. While both are pro-life, the former is the president of Democrats for Life of America and the latter is an elected Republican. Hailing from Michigan where the political fight for life is highly contentious, their story regarding politics and family was inspiring for students looking to build a political bridge between family and friends. This concept of finding common ground but standing firm in our conviction in the defense of life is key to our Conference mission and our goal to show the preciousness of life to all people.

We believe that, as men and women for others, we must all be united in support of the unborn. However, we especially value the perspective of women in the church who are leading the way on life issues. For instance, Kathleen Domingo, director of the California Catholic Conference, Elizabeth Kirk, legal consultant to the USCCB, and Gloria Purvis, host of the Gloria Purvis podcast, all came to speak as panelists or breakout session speakers. 

For the greater glory of God, our community of pro-life Georgetown students will continue to organize and facilitate the O’Connor Conference each year in order to host college students, academics, and clergy who are dedicated to upholding the sanctity of human life. We look forward to continuing student involvement in the Conference and captivating young hearts and minds to protect and defend the unborn.