UChicago Students Attend the 2024 March for Life

 /  Feb. 1, 2024, 6:38 p.m.

UChicago students outside the Supreme Court at the 2024 March for Life

Photo taken by Molly Morrow, Jan. 19, 2024

UChicago Students outside the Supreme Court at the 2024 March for Life

Every year, the March for Life gathers thousands of protestors to Washington, D.C., among them politicians, organizers and religious leaders. The March for Life also draws a large student crowd each year, including numerous college groups, of which UChicago Students for Life was one.

UChicago Students for Life is a chapter of Students for Life, a national organization that consists of nearly 80 staff members and that has “trained more than 163,000 young people to stand up for Life.” They work with 1,400 anti-abortion student groups as young as middle school. They are a major nonprofit, having received over $13 million in donations in 2022 alone. Though they do not directly fund student groups’ attendance at the march, they are active in promoting youth activism in the anti-abortion movement, an effort made obvious by the high youth attendance at the March for Life each year.

As in past years, the UChicago RSO relied on partial subsidies from the Student Government Finance Committee to fund this year’s trip. A group of 15 UChicago students traveled from Chicago to Washington, D.C. for the march, which was held on Jan. 19, 2024. The group’s March for Life coordinator, Alejandro Morles, planned the trip and arranged for the group to attend the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life, a conference run by students at Georgetown University, where students hear from activists and learn more about the movement.

UChicago Students for Life is also involved in activism back in Hyde Park. They focus on three main goals: education, advocacy and service. Students hold meetings to talk about abortion-related issues, engage in activism and fundraisers on campus, and volunteer at Aid for Women, a crisis pregnancy center with locations across Illinois.

But members of the UChicago group say that participating in the March for Life is a particularly special part of their activism and a powerful way to meet like-minded peers.

“We are on a very secular campus,” said Alejandro Morles, a fourth-year in the College. “I feel that oftentimes the pro-life belief is not only a slim minority, but is easily vilified and demonized. But by going to the march, you are able to see just how many people there are out there in the world who are pro-life and who think that it’s so important.”

The UChicago group spoke of how their time at the university has shaped these beliefs. Though he had always been pro-life, Morles said he developed a deeper understanding of the issue and a more staunchly anti-abortion position during his time at UChicago.

“I believe the ultimate goal of the university is the pursuit of truth,” said Morles. “And I thought that tying abortion to a certain week felt entirely arbitrary.”

Kenzi Bustamante, a fourth-year student and president of UChicago Students for Life, says she has always been certain of her belief in this issue.

“Growing up, my mom had three miscarriages,” said Bustamante. “When we were young, we always went to the cemetery with her, and she was very open with her grief about it. I think that was a very good thing she did as a parent. ‘Is a fetus a person?’ was not a question for me.”

These students and others like them represent a key demographic on the abortion issue, a demographic that is generally quite pro-choice: young people.

Student activists like Bustamante hope to make this a part of their future, too. She originally wanted to go into medicine, but now hopes to work in public policy to advocate against abortion on the policy level and promote programs and charities that support pregnant women and families. Bustamante has been active in speaking out against abortion services specifically at UChicago Medicine for the Chicago Thinker, UChicago’s conservative political newspaper.

Beyond the March for Life, in the setting of a college campus, UChicago Students for Life hope to initiate conversations on the issue and ultimately change minds on campus. They stress how dialogue–on campus and off–is key to better understanding the issue and finding common ground. They point to their educational meetings, where students, including those who may not agree with their stance on abortion, can learn about and engage in constructive dialogue about these issues.

“I wouldn’t say most students on this campus feel particularly strongly pro-life or pro-choice,” said Morles. “Most don’t even want to have a conversation, since it’s such a polarizing issue. But both sides are pretty certain this is a big deal, so Students for Life likes to foster conversations about the realities of abortion and get people talking about it.”

As for the future of the issue, Morles and others in the UChicago group spoke of their interest in bipartisan legislation that would support pregnant women financially and emotionally, but are loyal to the abortion cause as one of the main issues they are concerned about heading into the 2024 elections. With heightened emotions on both sides of the issue that are only growing as the elections draw near, UChicago Students for Life hopes to use the anti-abortion movement’s post-Dobbs momentum to continue advocating against and initiating dialogue about abortion among students in 2024.

Molly Morrow


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