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roe v wade

At USC, a prolife student’s display was vandalized, and her women’s studies professor said it’s OK to kill children before they are born

USC Students For Life President Lisa Ebiner Gavit’s prolife display of white hearts and informational posters to mark the Roe v. Wade anniversary was repeatedly vandalized Tuesday, and her antiabortion opinions were also criticized during her women’s studies class that same day.

But in an interview Wednesday with The College Fix, Gavit – a 20-year-old philosophy senior who aims to become an elementary school teacher – said everything that happened had a silver lining, because it opened an important dialogue on campus and possibly touched hearts and minds along the way.

Gavit and her prolife peers early Tuesday had set up their pre-approved display consisting of 275 white hearts around the famous “Tommy Trojan” statue in the center of campus, along with four large posters: one that cited a helpline for post-abortion counseling; another with an image of a 5-month-old baby in utero and the words “choose life”; a third that highlighted the estimated 50 million abortions that have occurred since the legalization of abortion in America in 1973; and a fourth that explained the 275 white hearts represented how many abortions take place in America every two hours. USCProlife1

“The display got a lot of visibility all throughout the day,” Gavit said. “We probably will never know if anybody called that number to find healing after an abortion, or who was touched by it, but it made a lot of people think.”

Gavit said when she checked on the display Tuesday afternoon, she noticed someone had ripped two of the posters in half, but a “Good Samaritan” taped them back up, she’s not sure who.

Later that evening, when she and her peers went to take down the display, they came upon two female students who had already ripped and crumpled all their posters, essentially destroying them, and were in the process of destroying their white hearts as well.

“I asked them what they were doing and they were kind of condescending, they were like, ‘Oh, we are just rearranging the hearts,’ ” Gavit said, adding soon after the two female students left, one of whom departed while dropping a profanity-laced rant at the group.

Then that young woman returned, apologized, and debated Gavit on abortion for a while.

“At first I was wondering if her apology was sincere or if she was worried we were going to report her, but I let her explain why,” Gavit said. “Then I explained our display was not meant to shame women, it was focused on the children. And part of the reason we had the banner on healing after an abortion is we realize there are women or men who might feel that is beneficial to them.”

“She was spilling all her views on the issue, and I just let her talk and I just listened, because it was clear she was really hurting,” said Gavit, who added she does not plan to press any criminal charges for the vandalism. “I was glad she came back to talk to us, but I do think it is really sad that people feel that they can rip down someone’s display because they don’t agree with the message.”

Earlier in the day, Gavit said was faced with another group of women who did not agree with her display as well.

When Gavit walked into her women’s studies class Tuesday, she came face-to-face with a large picture of her prolife display projected onto the whiteboard. Then she heard her professor and some classmates laughing about the display, commenting that the prolife students who put it up must have been too scared to stick around and defend it or talk to passersby. Others wondered out loud if the display was approved by campus administration.

Gavit, who said she had enrolled in the women’s studies class to fulfill the university’s “diversity requirement,” and also because it fit into her schedule, quietly listened, knowing no one realized she was behind the display.

But Gavit said she also chose the women’s studies class because she wanted an opportunity to represent a different viewpoint in it. As the small class began with student introductions, as it was only the second time the weekly class had met, Gavit told her peers she had put up the display.

“The professor’s face was priceless,” Gavit said. “She started laughing. I don’t understand why it was so funny to her, she was like, ‘Oh, this is too good.’ Luckily, she let me explain, and I answered some of their concerns.”

Gavit said she told the class her group did, in fact, have permission to put up the display, and that they had thought about sticking around to talk to fellow students, but instead decided more people might feel comfortable approaching it if it was unmanned.

One of Gavit’s classmates apologized for their earlier comments, saying they did not mean to offend her. They asked Gavit to go on, and she told them she was prolife and Catholic.

“At that point then they all assumed the only reason I was prolife was because I was brainwashed because I was brought up in the church, and I couldn’t hold these position because of factional reasons,” Gavit recalled. “I said absolutely not, I base this off a scientific fact that life begins at conception.”

Gavit said the professor “very clearly disagreed with me.”

“She mentioned she has had a couple abortions and she said it is totally fine,” Gavit said. “She didn’t mince words at all. She said something like it’s OK to kill your own children before they are born. … It was in the context of mentioning how some Northern European countries are starting to be OK with infanticide, so she was saying she is not there yet, but it is OK to kill your own children before they are born.”

Ultimately, Gavit said she was pleased to be able to represent another side to the class.

“It was a pretty interesting debate, all and all, and I am glad we were able to have it,” she said.

IMAGES:  Lisa Ebiner Gavit

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The revolution will not be televised.

That, at least, seemed to be the message of the most recent March for Life, held Friday, Jan. 25, in Washington, D.C.

Between 500,000 and 600,000 gathered in the nation’s capital for the annual protest, likely making it the biggest year in the event’s history. And yet, on the mile-long route from the National Mall to the steps of the Supreme Court, the only news camera visible was from the Catholic network, EWTN.

Event organizers are used to the media blackout. The March brought approximately as many people to Washington as President Obama’s second inauguration, held just four days before—but only one event received 24 hours of wall-to-wall coverage. As a friend in attendance observed, “If we were protesting anything else…”

She’s right. In its 40-year history, the March for Life has become the world’s largest civil protest—and is met annually with almost complete radio silence. 20,000 attended the first March in January 1974, led by Nellie Gray, a D.C.-area attorney, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Roe v. Wade decision (which, decided 40 years ago last week, has since led to 55 million abortions). Four decades in, unless you’re already connected to pro-life circles, you likely would not know the March is happening.

Still, March for Life is managing to get its message out. The protest march along Constitution Avenue is preceded by a rally, which annually features a number of pro-life legislators and other activists, among them this year Kentucky senator Rand Paul and former Pennsylvania senator and Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum. Protestant churches and Catholic dioceses, Orthodox congregations, high schools, colleges, and a host of civic organizations from across the country brought contingents by car, bus, and plane: Portland, Maine; Evansville, Indiana; Fort Worth, Texas—even a large group from Ireland crossed the pond to participate. Joining in spirit was Pope Benedict XVI, who tweeted his support.

And it’s not an old crowd. Given the number of high school and college students in attendance, the median age likely hovers around 30—if it is that high. A 2012 Gallup poll showed that 50 percent of Americans self-identify as “pro-life,” while only 41 percent self-identify as “pro-choice.” But more to the point, Gallup also noted (in 2010) that “Americans aged 18 to 29 are trending more anti-abortion.” While 18-to-29-year-olds were most likely to support legal abortion “under any circumstances” in the first years after Roe v. Wade, they are now more likely than any other demographic group to believe it should be illegal “in all circumstances.”

That does not always make it easier for pro-life students on campus, as Ruben Verastegui, president of Northwest Vista College Students for Life, noted in his speech at the rally. “Sometimes it’s going to feel like you’re alone on campus as a pro-lifer,” he said. “But take a look around you right now.”

And around them pro-life students are finding not only camaraderie but support. The Pro-Life Field Program of Students for Life of America (SFLA) is working to help establish a pro-life group on every college campus in the U.S. SFLA reported 637 active pro-life campus groups as of May 2011, with groups in 48 states. That same year, the SFLA National Conference became the largest pro-life youth conference in the world. A strong pro-life presence on campus is particularly important, says SFLA, given that college-aged women (18-24) obtain 44 percent of all abortions.

Their work may be paying off. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the total number of abortions declined from 2000 to 2009, as did the abortion rate (the number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years) and the abortion ratio (number of abortions per 1,000 live births).

The revolution may not be televised, but pro-lifers are confident that it will happen nonetheless. “We are the chosen generation! We will abolish abortion, and we will change history!” said Verastegui. For the 500,000-plus pro-lifers who gathered in D.C., the March was an opportunity to bring a message of love and dignity to the nation’s representatives, chief among them a president who has done more to entrench abortion than any president in living memory. For the youngest marchers, it was a chance to show that the pro-life movement is not a niche cause or a fringe crusade; rather, it is a view of human life gaining traction with an entire generation of Americans.

Shortly after starting to march, a small group of young men began to sing the refrain of “God of this City,” a praise song by Christian musician Chris Tomlin: Greater things have yet to come / Greater things are still to be done in this City, they sang.

Indeed.

Fix contributor Ian Tuttle is a student at St. John’s College.

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IMAGE: Beechwood Photography

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As Americans today mark the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, college junior Tianna Spears is busy prepping to re-launch the Beautiful Pain Movement, a secular campus outreach program that helps students heal from abortion trauma.

Spears, 20, a business major at North Carolina State, founded the campus group after she helped a close friend through the emotional after-effects of an abortion, noting on her blog that “I saw her pain, heard it in her voice, saw it accumulate and drip from her eyes.”

“I saw how she struggled,” Spears said in an interview with The College Fix. “She would go for counseling, but they would be really religious or pro-life. That really encouraged me to make the group not affiliated with anything.”

The Beautiful Pain Movement is apolitical and non-religious. It fashions itself as “a loving community of understanding and acceptance among people who have experienced the same thing.” Its slogan? “Come as you are.”

The group, founded in September, will launch its latest five-week session Wednesday, the day after the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision. An estimated 55 million abortions have occurred since that ruling.

While many feminists and staunch pro-choice advocates often insist there’s no real harm or mental or psychological after-effects from an abortion, Spears’ personal experience through her friend indicates there can be emotional scarring.

The most commonly discussed emotions are guilt, regret and denial, she said. For the men, they felt like they had not done enough, and some were denied a voice when it came time to make the decision, she said. That’s where the group comes in, offering empathetic support.

“As a whole, a society, we are supposed to be strong, but handle our pain in private, behind closed doors, and bury our skeletons in the closet,” Spears blogged recently. “I disagree. People need people to get through difficult situations, no matter what the circumstances may be.”

That comfort is especially vital given the lack of counseling available for women after an abortion, Spears said. While women are scheduled for a follow-up medical appointment to make sure the pregnancy has cleared, there’s no support provided for the emotional turmoil that may follow, she said.

Outside the context of a person being for or against abortion, Spears said most mainstream discourse about abortion doesn’t come close to touching on what her group tackles.

She said she intends for the sessions to be a safe, open place where participants can share how they have been affected by abortion, and through the support of peers, determine their own steps to find peace with what happened.

By hosting the sessions on NC State’s campus, Spears said she hopes more students will come – though the group is open to all, students and non-students alike. As an official on-campus organization, Spears has received support from the university as well.

And that support comes at a crucial time.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a think-tank which compiles statistics on reproduction, abortions have been on the rise since 2008. Prior to that, they were on the decline. Suggestions have been made that the increase could be due to the recent recession.

In fact, Spears said finances have played a part in participants’ reasoning for getting an abortion, though she is careful to point out that it is not the only reason. She also cites lack of support and pressure from boyfriends or parents as indicated reasons for abortions among group members.

Spears said she hopes to further develop the Beautiful Pain Movement, with plans to file for recognition as a non-profit by May 2014. Further information can be found at the group’s website: thebeautifulpainmovement.org.

Fix contributor Jessica Kubusch is a student at UNC Chapel Hill.

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IMAGE: Dyanna Hyde/Flickr

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