Charges Dropped Against Notre Dame-Obama Speech Protestors

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 5, 2011   |   5:13PM   |   South Bend, IN

Charges have finally been dropped against 88 pro-life advocates who engaged in protests on the Notre Dame campus when pro-abortion President Barack Obama came to town for a controversial graduation speech.

The 88 pro-lifers peacefully assembled against the Catholic university’s decision to honor the vehemently pro-abortion president. They were arrested and subject to various charges that remained despite the help of the Thomas More Society, a national pro-life legal group.

However, TMS informed Thursday afternoon that Michael Dvorak, the St. Joseph County Indiana prosecutor, dismissed the criminal trespass charges that he has pressed over the last two years against almost all of the pro-life protesters. Dvorak dropped the charges as part of an agreement between the Thomas More Society and the University of Notre Dame.

“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.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Tom Dixon, a South Bend, Indiana attorney and Thomas More Society special counsel, had led the defense over the last two years, during which the parties engaged in vigorous litigation, including extensive discovery proceedings.

The parties remain in profound disagreement over the 2009 Commencement, where Obama was given an honorary degree, but after prayerful consideration they have decided to put their differences behind them, to cease battling in court, and rather to affirm a commitment to the fundamental proposition that each and every human life is sacred, from conception until natural death, no matter whether rich or poor, humble or exalted, wanted or “unwanted.” Moreover, both parties have pledged not to rehash the events of the past, but on the contrary, to recognize each other’s pro-life efforts and to work together to find ways to increase those efforts and maximize their impact on the nation’s contentious, ongoing debate over abortion policy.

Hon. Jenny Pitts Manier, the original judge assigned to these cases, eventually recused herself from hearing the cases because of apparent conflicts of interest raised by Dixon.  Judge Manier had certified her rulings against recusal for immediate appeal, but after the appeal was filed, she stepped aside of her own accord.

Among those arrested were prominent pro-life figures including Alan Keyes, former presidential candidate who also ran for the U.S. Senate against then-Senate candidate Barack Obama, and Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” in Roe v. Wade.