WASHINGTON (CNS) — If the argument against abortion is “grounded in the concept of human equality, you kind of catch people off guard” because “it’s not a religious argument,” a University of Notre Dame law professor told a pro-life crowd gathered at the National Press Club in Washington.

“Biology and modern science have confirmed that the unborn child is as much one of us as anyone in this room, from the moment of conception, a fully integrated self-directed human life, so the question isn’t when life begins, but when moral and legal protection can be ascribed to that life,” said O.C. Snead.

He was among several speakers at “The Law of Life Summit” sponsored by the Ave Maria University School of Law Jan. 21. It was one of several events planned to coincide with the 39th annual March for Life marking the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

The summit drew a number of speakers from pro-life law firms, advocacy groups and other organizations who gave an overview of their work.


Snead has been on the faculty of Notre Dame’s Law School since 2005. His principal area of expertise is public bioethics — the governance of science, medicine and biotechnology “in the name of ethical goods.”

He said he has found the argument that abortion is about human rights to be effective when he has spoken at law schools, the United Nations and UNESCO “to people who are not religious people, who are not in the habit of thinking about pro-life principles but are in the habit of thinking about equality and human rights.”

“Once they understand this is the most fundamental human rights question facing us in the 21st century, it at least gets their attention,” he said.

Stuart Nolan, of the Legal Works Apostolate in Front Royal, Va., suggested that pro-lifers persuade a physician in their community to commit to having a pro-life practice and then enlist a local Knights of Columbus council to sponsor a pregnant woman in need or a single mother and ask that physician to provide her care.

Lawyer Dana Cody with the Life Legal Defense Foundation of Napa Calif., said her organization’s work includes defending people accused of violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. In one recent case, a Florida judge dismissed all charges against pro-life advocate Susan Pine, who was charged with violating the law with her sidewalk counseling.

“The court went so far as to question whether the charges brought by the DOJ (Department of Justice) were the product of a collaboration between the government and the abortion clinic to violate Ms. Pine’s free speech rights,” according to Cody’s foundation.

The summit closed with an appearance by Nellie Gray, founder and president of the March for Life Education & Defense Fund, the group that organizes the annual march. As a lawyer herself, she called for unity among all the lawyers at the summit in efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade and outlaw abortion “without exception.”

Royce Hood, who is in his third year of law school at Ave Maria University in Florida, organized the summit. As the son of a single mother, the issue of abortion is personal for him, he told Catholic News Service.

He said he also feels that as a pro-life law school, “Ave Maria should be at the forefront of this fight, we should try to unite people and absolutely see an end to Roe.”

Earlier the same day, the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception hosted a book-signing session with two authors: Jesuit Father Robert J. Spitzer, former president of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., and founder of the Magis Institute, and Teresa Tomeo, a longtime broadcast journalist who is now a syndicated talk show host on Eternal Word Television Network.

Father Spitzer’s latest book is “Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues,” published by Ignatius. In it he outlines the principles that “form the foundation of civility, justice and objectivity in cultures throughout the world,” and lays out a sophisticated case against abortion.

Tomeo’s book, “Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture,” also published by Ignatius,” looks at how the culture is “going after women” and how women are hurt, “whether it be by body image, eating disorders and sexual objectification.”

She said she based her book on her own experience of being caught up in the “contraceptive culture,” before she came back to the Catholic Church. Tomeo also did “a ton of research,” she said, “about the effects on people of birth control, abortion, whatever and connect the dots back to church teaching and say, ‘Look, what God has designed is the way it is supposed to be. … God’s plan is always the best plan and we see that revealing itself over and over.”