For over 10 years, my life was paralyzed with an education that focused on the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Every morning, we sang the Pledge of Allegiance and then shifted our right hand from our heart to our forehead, chest and shoulders.
In fifth grade, I was threatened with suspension when I wrote that abortion was a woman’s choice. In eighth grade, I was threatened again when I refused to sign a chastity agreement. In high school, I wasn’t allowed to touch the topic of abortion unless I was willing to be pro-life. Every year, I was left out of the March for Life field trips to Washington, D.C.
For 10 years, I was trained to be anti-abortion. But as a junior at the University of Miami, I feel compelled to argue that this framework to educate young minds is toxic. To educate children that religion should go above the law and control a woman’s right to choose is simply undemocratic, unconstitutional and most poignantly, un-American.
On January 18, the trials of Catholic school education reached national news. I saw the 10 years of my Catholic education reflected in a picture of a male student in a red “Make America Great Again” hat smirking at a Native elder at the 2019 March for Life rally.
This student, surrounded by several other male students from Covington Catholic High School, were seen and filmed visibly mocking Nathan Phillips, an elder of the Omaha Nation. Phillips was attending the Indigenous People’s March.
This situation escalated to reach national outlets, facing dueling arguments. Unfortunately, several people involved in this debate fail to realize that Covington Catholic High School is an all-boys school that captures the essence of our modern times by wearing President Trump’s signature red campaign hat and attending a march that focused on destabilizing a woman’s right to her own body.
In 2015, about 31 percent of the U.S. Congress was Catholic and many attended Catholic schools. Conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh attended Catholic and Jesuit schools. President Trump’s top attorney in the White House, Pat Cipollone, graduated from Covington Catholic High School in 1984. The grinning MAGA hat-wearing Covington High School students have the potential to earn a winning seat in conservative politics.
Conservatism fueled by anti-abortion beliefs in our national politics has taken place for decades. In 1972, President Richard Nixon ran his reelection campaign seeking to “drive a wedge right down the middle of the Democratic Party with messages that targeted Catholic voters who fight abortion in their legislatures and send their kids to Catholic schools,” said Nixon’s strategist and speechwriter Patrick Buchanan.
The year 1972 was when abortion and resistance began to take the center stage in American politics. In 1973, Roe v. Wade was passed, further fueling the abortion resistance and still holding precedent 47 years later.
History gives meanings to the confrontations that echoed my rejection towards religious indoctrination. However, several of the men who shape modern American politics are products of the pedagogy I grew to despise. And every March for Life, I will be reminded about how it’s a yearly touchstone of the conservative movement, one that will continue progressing to hinder a woman’s right to choose.
Daniela Perez is a junior majoring in journalism and political science.