If abortions are socially induced, provide unbiased alternatives
Last Wednesday night, Feminists for Life President Serrin Foster lectured on campus, following a week of dedicated advertising by the Carnegie Mellon Respect Life Club and the subsequent marring of the group’s posters around the university. Fearing that my at-times overzealous, leftward-leaning opinions as Forum editor of this newspaper preceded me, I treaded carefully as I entered the packed lecture room in Doherty Hall. But what I encountered was not the worn-out pro-life versus pro-choice argument that I expected; instead, Foster made a call for change on our own campus — and unintentionally opened the door for the acknowledgment of an additional change that is needed here as well.
Foster is sassy — and that made her very likable. She was aware that, while the majority of those present at the lecture likely were against abortion and agreed with the views of her organization, others might not. She poked fun at herself while proposing some fairly radical ideas — among them, that the claim that abortion as a potential means of controlling the world’s population and hunger issues is unfounded, citing American obesity — and poking fun at her own weight — as proof against this claim. While I appreciated her tone of both intellectualism and saucy angst, I found her dismissal of several significant counterarguments inaccurate and irresponsible.
Feminists for Life (www.feministsforlife.org) insists that “women deserve better choices” than abortion, arguing that abortions are thrust upon women by social and economic situations. Foster proposed that the conversation shouldn’t be about the pros and cons of abortion, or about the choice between a woman’s rights and those of her unborn child. Rather, a different discussion is needed — one about how to change the realities of women’s lives so that they don’t need to have abortions.
This is true. The decision to have a child is often influenced by one’s relationships (with the father, with her family, with the campus community) and financial ability to support another human being. But simply acknowledging this is not enough.
Foster’s suggested solution is to create an on-campus resource center to support parents in a variety of ways, as she cited evidence stating that almost half of all abortions are performed on college women. This would be great; any health center catering to the needs of the student body should always be welcome. But even here, money is tight, and spending resources on something for a very small percentage of the population is unlikely to be economically viable.
Regardless, if it’s logistically feasible, I support the idea of this center, and would be happy to help make it a reality. But it must be a non-partisan center, one that perpetuates no other agenda than to assist women, their partners, and their children. Foster seemed to agree with this when I made this argument in a question following her lecture. But what Foster is unaware of — which is not her fault, but is an important point to raise nonetheless — is that the campus community has been split over the abortion debate as of late.
While the majority of my political opinions tend to be liberal, I do understand and sometimes agree with some socially conservative viewpoints. My views are surely not the most radical or liberal on this campus, and as such, I feel comfortable saying that my opinions do not only represent those of a small, feeble minority at Carnegie Mellon. That said, several recent movements related to the on-campus debate about abortion have not been progressive and serve to diminish the chances for a non-partisan health center gaining any credence on this liberal leaning campus.
On Election Day, the Respect Life Club set up 3700 popsicle-stick, cross-shaped, imitation grave markers for aborted babies — right next to the Carnegie Mellon Students for Barack Obama campaigning table. Before this, the group handed out cupcakes for the birthdays of aborted babies, and several members of the group taped over their mouths to pay tribute to those who were never given voices as part of the National Pro-Life Silent Day of Solidarity in October.
Abortion is always a relevant issue to debate, and a college campus is an important venue on which to discuss it. But these three actions were morbid: By their offensive and saddening nature, the group’s actions alienated those who were not necessarily in agreement with it — and even some that were. This was an ineffective means of argumentation. To persuade your opponents that your opinion is the correct one, you should not alienate them or shut them out of the debate, which these actions did by insinuating that the others — those who have taken friends to have abortions performed, those who value the legality of abortion, those who have no opinion on the issue, those who wondered what the group was doing when its members sat silently near the popsicle-stick crosses — are murderers, or simply too irrational to engage in a responsible debate.
I do not mean to attack the Carnegie Mellon Respect Life Club. I have an incredible amount of respect for the group, particularly its president, senior design major Jessie Kaercher, for taking an often unpopular stance on an incredibly difficult issue to debate. Perhaps I’m biased by my affinity for opinionated speech and direct communication between opposing parties, but I’m all for more groups being active on campus, particularly ones with unique or new biases. The Respect Life Club should be commended for forcing the issue of abortion into the open on this campus — but it must tread carefully, and should be careful not to offend members of the community who either disagree with its message or disagree with the medium. If we are to successfully install measures on campus that will provide guidance and resources for pregnant women (and I argue that this center should include information and counseling for those who choose abortion), regardless of the economic feasibility of this concept, this must be done as a process separate from strictly pro-life measures.
Foster is right: If women are forced to have or not to have an abortion based on societal influences, let’s do the best we can to remove those factors from their decision-making process. A clinic is not a popsicle-stick graveyard. An on-campus daycare is not red duct tape sealing the mouths of students. Let’s keep it that way.