The arrest of Tracy and Jean Chase, two of the “ND 88” at Notre Dame, May 17, 2009 [Photo by Citizens for a Pro-Life Society]
We were happy to receive word today that all charges have been dropped against the group nicknamed the “ND 88,” who were arrested when President Obama came to give the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame on May 17, 2009.
History of the Dispute
When President Obama was announced on as the Notre Dame commencement speaker in March 2009, pro-life groups across the nation, starting with the Pro-Life Action League League, denounced the invitation. Protests soon began, and the League erected billboards along the Indiana Toll Road decrying Obama’s “pro abortion choice” stance.
Commencement Day, May 17, was met with huge protests, with the League and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society busing in hundreds of activists to hold graphic abortion signs and picket signs with the message Obama = Abortion.
As part of the protests that day and in the weeks before, 88 individuals decided to engage in civil disobedience, protesting onto the grounds on the University in protest, in defiance of Notre Dame police orders. They were arrested and charged with trespassing.
Settlement Two Years in the Making
The attorneys at the Thomas More Society—which was founded to defend League National Director Joe Scheidler in the NOW v. Scheidler lawsuit—valiantly took up the cause of this group, supporting them through the two year ordeal.
Monica Miller, Director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society and one of the ND 88 commented today:
That the criminal trespass charges were dropped is a great pro-life victory and the consequence of an agreement entered into by the defendants and the University of Notre Dame—an agreement that objectively acknowledged the pro-lifers’ moral and spiritual concerns over the Obama invitation. The agreement, which passed through a number of drafts before several of the defendants believed they could, in conscience, sign it, calls for dialogue towards reconciliation. Indeed, since May 2009 Notre Dame has taken serious initiatives to strengthen its commitment to the sanctity of human life.
“This is a big step forward and a victory for the pro-life cause,” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society and a 1965 Notre Dame graduate. Tom continued:
We are appreciative of the steps that Notre Dame has taken, including successive visits by University President John Jenkins, C.S.C., and other campus leaders to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., both in 2010 and 2011, to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and the creation of new and significant pro-life initiatives on campus. Those who share pro-life convictions may differ on tactics and approaches, but they best serve their sacred cause when they work together to secure the common good for all human beings, born and unborn alike, rather than carrying on as courtroom antagonists.
Talk about great news! Congratulations, friends!
- The Thomas More Society’s Settlement Agreement with Notre Dame regarding arrested pro-life activists