abortion

“We hope you understand that our intention is not to restrict your freedom of speech or expression, but rather to create an inclusive and respectful environment for all.”

That was the stated justification the organizers of the Johns Hopkins University Spring Fair gave to a pro-life group, explaining why it could no longer display fetal models at its booth, as it’s done for 30 years, according to LifeSiteNews.

This is what the models look like. Johns Hopkins runs a world-renowned medical school.

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A student committee with faculty advisers said those images were “triggering and disturbing” for some people on campus, but after an inquiry from FoxNews.com, the organizers backed down:

On Tuesday, FoxNews.com emailed questions to the students involved in the decision. Forty minutes later, the student committee informed Guernsey by email that the display would be allowed.

In a statement to FoxNews.com, the student committee explained:

“We… were wrong in our initial decision and, upon further reflection, have decided we will not impose restrictions on the displays presented by any community groups at Spring Fair… The committee values free speech.”

Susan Kruth at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notes that despite the private school’s broad promises to promote “the free exchange of ideas,” the committee’s criteria for rejecting images are practically unhinged:

In addition, the Committee claims “the right to reject illegal, vulgar, triggering, or otherwise disturbing images.”

It is not at all clear from the Committee’s policy what constitutes “disturbing” images. Indeed, it is even more unclear considering that non-graphic anatomical models of fetuses (i.e., one can easily tell what it being shown, but there is no blood or realistic viscera depicted) apparently fit the bill.

Kruth warns that the committee hasn’t rescinded its unhinged right to ban speech:

It is absurd that members of the JHU community—overwhelmingly adults, who ostensibly are there to learn—are treated as though they are unable to confront depictions of the human body. [The dispute] was over whether models crafted to show the size and developmental stages of fetuses were so potentially harmful to students that they should be subject to censorship. …

In addition, the Committee has not explicitly rescinded its right to censor other “disturbing” displays at its whim.

It’s not FIRE’s first dance with John Hopkins student leaders, even on the abortion issue:

Last August, for example, [pro-life group President Andrew] Guernsey spoke out in response to the [student government’s] viewpoint-based reclassification of student advocacy groups in order to render them eligible for a much smaller amount of funding than they were before. And before that, Guernsey encountered significant opposition from the SGA when trying to gain recognition for Voice for Life. The group was initially rejected for blatantly viewpoint-based reasons, but [the government’s] rejection was overturned after FIRE intervened.

Read LifeSiteNews, FoxNews.com and FIRE’s post.

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IMAGE: North Baltimore Pro-Life Study Group

 

UPDATED

Millennial disconnect: life starts at conception, ‘but I can’t tell someone else what to do’

College students are being confronted with a question they may have never considered: When do human rights begin?

That’s the point of a new traveling project by Students for Life of America. The Human Rights Tour has sparked several positive discussions on campuses around the country, organizers told The College Fix.

humanrights.StudentsforLifeofAmericaSFLA staffers come to each campus with a display that shows the stages of fetal development. Students who pass by the display are asked to place stickers on the timeline corresponding to the point at which they believe human rights begin.

Kristan Hawkins, president of the group, told The Fix by email her group wants to “educate and challenge” students by showing them “the scientific development of a human from fertilization to birth.”

Students “will be led to think more deeply … about the value of human beings,” Hawkins continued. “We believe many college students really haven’t thought in-depth about this question or have had the chance to formulate their own beliefs on the topic.”

Until Wednesday morning, the tour website – live for a month – had only named 13 out of 27 universities that SFLA initially had pledged to visit. As of Tuesday night, the tour was slated to hit six more campuses, though only one – the University of Wyoming – had a confirmed date.

A map under the list appears to show more than two dozen pins representing unnamed schools across the country.

On Wednesday morning, after this article was published, several more March dates had been added for schools, bringing the total of past and future scheduled visits to 17 schools. Another nine schools are listed with no confirmed dates.

The website also listed the wrong Web address as of Tuesday night as the source for information on its tour display, edh.org, whose website is empty except for advertising links.

By Wednesday morning, the address had been changed to ehd.org, the website for the Endowment for Human Development, which provides prenatal development resources.

 ‘I never really thought about this before’

Staffers Emily Wilkinson and Missy Stone have traveled with the display to colleges in California and Arizona, including UCLA and Grand Canyon University. They told The Fix the display has served as a catalyst for thoughtful discussions about rights for unborn children.

Wilkinson said in an email that most reactions were positive.

“A majority of students were willing to take a sticky note and vote on our timeline, though not all stayed to dialogue with us,” Wilkinson said. “Of those who did, regardless of the outcome of the conversation, MANY said ‘I never really thought about this before.’”

“The reactions were a lot better than I anticipated, especially since we were in SoCal,” Stone said. “I was expecting more hostility, but really it was mostly positive.”

Negative reactions were limited to “the few who walk past and curse under their breath,” but that’s a reaction to any pro-life display, Stone added.

“A lot of people thanked us – for simply being there, for inspiring conversation, or for the way we presented the issue,” Wilkinson said.

Language of rights ‘resonates more with young people’

The method behind the display was an important factor in its success, the women said.

“We had multiple students say things like, ‘Oh, the heart starts beating at 3 weeks!’ They would read through and tell us that they had no idea pre-born children developed so quickly,” said Stone.

“I think it’s a great way to approach the issue because it’s non-confrontational and we’re asking the question, ‘when do human rights begin?’ not ‘when does life begin?’” she continued. “I think that kind of language resonates more with young people.”

Wilkinson noted the word “abortion” doesn’t appear on the banners. “Although the display serves an educational purpose with the use of striking photos of prenatal development, its primary purpose is to be deeply thought-provoking.”

Not all the conversations resulted in a call to action, however.

Wilkinson said she “wasn’t prepared for” a trend of students “choosing conception with their vote, and then paradoxically expressing in our conversations, ‘but I can’t tell someone else what to do.’”

Such a reaction ‘perfectly exemplifies the prevailing disconnect in the millennial generation and a culture that views morality, along with everything else, as a personal preference that shouldn’t be legislated,” Wilkinson said.

Anyone can take the tour survey – just a single question on a Google Form – at the tour website. Users who complete the survey must include their email addresses.

SFLA responded to Fix inquiries about the website Wednesday morning, noting that the website irregularities had been resolved.

UPDATE: This article has been amended to reflect that SFLA has updated the incorrect and missing information from the tour website since publication.

College Fix reporter Genevieve McCarthy is a student at Thomas Aquinas College.

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IMAGES: Students for Life of America

This Daily Emerald headline – “Protestors damage graphic anti-abortion sign” – really downplays what happened this week at the University of Oregon:

Several students surrounded three anti-abortion activists at the intersection of 13th Avenue and University Street on Tuesday before attempting to destroy a graphic poster one of the men was holding in protest.

University of Oregon Young Americans for Liberty President Thomas Tullis and Vice President Brandon Clements recorded the incident, where the activists displayed graphic depictions of aborted fetuses as they denounced abortion.

You’ll see a graphic photo of an aborted fetus in this video, so you can decide whether you want to watch, but this police officer apparently thought no one should be allowed to see it.

The confrontation between the students and the demonstrators begins about 14 minutes into the 19-minute video. After a student stood on and ripped an anti-abortion sign, a crowd of students surrounded the protestors, shouting at them and chanting “get off our campus.”

If you want an object lesson in the utter lunacy of student logic, check this out:

History major Allison Rutledge was the first to damage the anti-abortion activist’s poster. She stood on it and claimed that the activist didn’t have a right to display the graphic imagery. …

“I considered the sign obscene and offensive and intending to anger and start a scene,” Rutledge said when contacted for comment. “I didn’t want to look at that obscenity.”

She called the incident a tussle before saying that she felt emotionally threatened by the anti-abortion activist’s sign.

“There’s a limit to what people should be forced to look at,” Rutledge said. “We didn’t like it and we actually made him put his sign away. We had no problem with his opinion, but it was his sign. You can’t just show whatever you want.”

Oregon law on free expression, as the Daily notes, is even broader than the Supreme Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence. So no, Ms. Rutledge, he can show whatever he wants, even if you feel “emotionally threatened.” Continuing:

“This is our campus and we don’t want it — we don’t want you and your ugliness,” another unidentified woman said in the video.

“This is so violent. This is obscene,” the woman told the anti-abortion activist. “This is not part of your First Amendment rights. This is unbelievable.”

The police officer’s justification for telling the activist to put away his sign or leave is so strange – it violates student government rules? – that eventually his sergeant came over and rebuked him, and the university police promised its officers will be “reminded” to respect speech rights on campus.

The Young Americans for Liberty leaders who recorded the hubbub wrote a separate editorial berating the abortion-rights crowd as “childish” for harassing the lead protester and calling the cops on him. They provide many more details.

It would be hilarious if it weren’t depressing:

“This is a private business” the officer told the campus preacher. “On campus we have other rules other than just freedom of speech, ok? […] It’s just as if you were to walk into Winco and they have a no hat, no shoes, no service sign or whatever the heck it is.”

Despite the fact that many of us have been in Winco many times without a hat, the officer is clearly clueless about the university’s actual policy in support of free speech as a cornerstone of education.

Read the Daily story and the YAL leaders’ editorial.

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These students must feel really safe at the University of Missouri. Or maybe they’re just really dumb.

Pro-choice activists actually documented their vandalism of pro-life messages just hours after they were scrawled by Mizzou Students for Life members for National Pro-Life Chalk Day, the pro-life group wrote at the national SFL website.

Why not? Look at the support in the responses.

The chalk statements included “A baby @ 9 weeks in the womb can suck their thumb!” and “Pregnant and scared? you have options,” with a phone number.

Though none of the statements had the group’s name on them, “one Twitter user said she was planning to write a letter to Mizzou’s Organization Resource Group about us concerning the messages,” the Mizzou group said.

The group included before and after pictures of their chalkings. I recognize some of the slogans from Feminists for Life, which is starting its own project to share early feminist writings on abortion (news flash: they were strongly pro-life) with “women’s historians teaching at campuses across the country.”

Good to know that certain student activists don’t trust their own faculties of persuasion to win over students.

Read the Mizzou SFL post, which has more photos.

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IMAGE: Talk Radio News Service/Flickr

Earning respect from pro-choice groups for bridge-building activities

Pro-life students are making a difference in tangible ways, even finding common ground with campus opponents, they told The College Fix at the Students for Life of America (SFLA) East Coast National Conference on Friday.

Hosted the same weekend as the March for Life in Washington, D.C., the conference drew about 2,000 millennials, according to Kristina Hernandez, SFLA communications director.

“Abortion thrives because it is in the dark,” SFLA President Kristan Hawkins told students in her speech. She encouraged them to “light candles of hope and truth” in their efforts to stop abortion in their local communities.

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Among other campus groups recognized for their pro-life activism was Mississippi State University Students for Life, which won the Pregnant on Campus Group of the Year award for its promotion of parenting and pregnancy resources.

Anja Scheib, director of the MSU chapter’s Pregnant on Campus initiative, which produces a resource guide for pregnant and parenting students, told The Fix she has been hired by the university to promote retention of pregnant students.

The MSU President’s Commission on the Status of Women sent Scheib to the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders, a pro-choice group, she said.

“What I found is that we actually didn’t have any conflict because the [Pregnant on Campus] guide that Students for Life created wasn’t necessarily seen as a pro-life guide, it was just seen as a pro-women guide” by the NCCWSL, Scheib said.

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This year’s conference featured Princeton University’s Robert George, vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson; David Bereit of 40 Days for Life, an annual Christian campaign to end abortion through “prayer and fasting,” “constant vigil” and “community outreach”; and Lila Rose of Live Action, which conducts undercover investigations of the abortion industry.

abbyjohnson“Their whole image, the Students for Life of America, is one candle lighting up another one and then that one can light up the entire world,” said Mirna Awrow, president of Oakland University Students for Life.

“It’s hard to be the first one to speak out about [abortion] on your campus or in your community, but you never know how [many] people you can light up,” said Awrow.

Though her group has experienced vandalism of their pro-life materials, Awrow said that the overall response on campus has been positive.

Group members have “worked so hard on our reputation and students know that we are there for the women and … for babies,” even if they disagree with the group’s message, Awrow said. “We’re not out there yelling at anyone – we’re there welcoming people into our organization and students really respect that.”

Scheib and others said they saw the conference as a way to share ideas and connect with other people in the pro-life movement.

The conference “helped me because for the past couple of months I’d been just going through the motions. Now I’m getting fired back up,” said Rueben Ainsley, vice president of Students for Life at Eastern Michigan University.

College Fix contributor Mariana Barillas is a member of Students for Life at the University of Michigan-Flint.

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IMAGES: Students for Life of America, Mariana Barillas

New website from Students for Life of America centralizes local resources for those in need

Pregnant young women on campus are almost certain to hear that they must choose between their baby and their education – a “pro-choice” message with no choice at all.

Students for Life of America (SFLA) has launched a new website that combats that prevalent falsehood by connecting pregnant students with help and resources near them.

PregnantOnCampus.org is a “huge step in terms of catering to students on each individual campus,” Beth Rahal, the coordinator for the initiative, told The College Fix.

For the past two years, SFLA focused its Web information on its campus chapters and their advocacy.

But the national organization kept getting contacted by pregnant students who didn’t realize they often had access to resources on campus or the immediate vicinity, so it created a new site just for pregnant students.

The group has 838 student groups at 530 colleges. Those chapters can now advertise the page specific to their campus as well as work with health centers and campus ministries to publicize the site and the resources it points to, Rahal said.

No more running around campus for information

Those looking for pregnancy resources can click on a map at PregnantOnCampus.org and pull up their particular campus. Each campus page includes information on local resources such as childcare, food assistance, adoption, counseling and scholarships.

SFLA chapters previously had trouble keeping track of resources, so the new site keeps track of all that information, providing immediate answers for pregnant women in need.

map.PregnantOnCampus

“If we educate pregnant students and those who care about them and want to help about the many resources they can use, a huge burden can be lifted from their shoulders,” Kristan Hawkins, president of the group, told National Review. “They can start to prepare for the future and finish their education.”

PregnantOnCampus.org will let campus groups more effectively help students, Louis Vitti, vice president of the Boston University chapter, told The Fix.

“We no longer have to send [women] running around to different offices on campus to get further referrals or information,” Vitti said. Each chapter’s page will also help train its members to “answer questions from pregnant or parenting members of our community in a clear, concise, accurate, and prompt manner.”

Fighting the perceived shame of pregnancy

The new site addresses the problem of shame that’s common among pregnant students, Treasurer Kaitlyn Cocuzzo of Fairfield University’s chapter told The Fix.

“Many campuses have amazing resources available to students that they are either unaware of, or too ashamed to ask about publicly,” Cocuzzo said. The site will connect “students in similar situations” and provide them with “confidential resources … without having to worry about the opinions of their parents and their peers.”

“Our school seems to be lacking in well-advertised pregnancy resources if any at all,” the University of Northern Colorado’s chapter told The Fix. The site will help the club “provide real alternatives to abortion” and protect mothers as well, it said.

Emotional and moral support is a crucial part of the new endeavor to reach expectant students, Sade Patterson of the University of New Mexico’s chapter told The Fix.

“We see a great need on campus for women to know that they have the support they need if they are pregnant,” Patterson said.

Not only does the new site help pregnant students “in very tangible and practical ways,” said Hawkins of SFLA – it “shows the college campus that the pro-life movement is very much pro-woman and that we all could do more to support women in crisis.”

The effects of the project are profound, according to Lauren Galvan, president and founder of Brown University’s chapter.

Beyond pointing men and women to local resources, the site is “helping to change our culture’s attitude toward pregnancy from one of impossibility and shame to one of empowerment, support, and love,” Galvan told The Fix.

Or as Rahal put it: “Yes, you can.”

College Fix reporter Mairead McArdle is a student at Thomas Aquinas College.

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IMAGES: Trevor Bair/Flickr, PregnantOnCampus.org