Monday, March 28, 2011

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find Out What it Means to Me

            For all its talk of tolerance and “expecting respect,” the University of Michigan certainly hasn’t practiced what it preaches this semester.  Conservative groups should expect no favors at the most liberal university in the state, but one would think that the others students could extend more than disdain towards those who claim different opinions.
            Tonight’s thoughts stem from a weekend of disrespect that began at the Planned Parenthood protest on Saturday at noon.  Naturally UMSFL pulled together a team to counter-protest.  Several of the members arrived on the Diag in the morning to chalk – only to find that other pro-lifers from Washtenaw had beat them to the punch.  Statistics like “340 abortions = 1 adoption” and “37% of PP revenue is from abortions” lay across the sidewalks, surrounded by more emphatic demands to “Defund PP” and cries that “abortion is murder.”  Planned Parenthood supporters arrived as SFLers worked on sayings of their own, but the contemptuous glances didn’t begin until the throngs arrived.  In the chaos of bodies and voices, a few club members received intentional shoves and harsh words from pro-choice individuals.  Nevertheless, a number of pro-lifers from Michigan, Eastern, and pro-life organizations from around the county managed to break past the ever-tightening pink barricade and videotape or hold signs.    
            When the rally dissipated into the Walk for Choice, some of the pro-life advocates took a shortcut to Liberty Plaza to hold signs and wait for the crowd to arrive.  Aside from one confrontation with a man insistent that everyone holding an anti-abortion sign should adopt a child right now, the students received nearly all affirmative responses from bypassers.
            The Planned Parenthood coalition of about 100-150 arrived with cheers and shouts.  By this time several of the pro-lifers had placed duct tape across their mouths to represent the silenced voices of the unborn.  One of the girls in a group from Students for Choice at U of M looked at one of these pro-lifers and said, “If you joined our side, then you’d have a voice.”  Instead of recognizing the pro-lifer’s inability to speak back, she and her friends continued to taunt and bully her about why she wasn’t answering them, about how she didn’t have the right to speak for blacks, Latinos, or even women in general (note: the pro-choice advocate who made the last claim was male).  “It’s not even about abortion,” he claimed.  “That’s not even the issue.  You need to f***ing get off it.”  As the crowd pulled away to retreat to the Diag, the male Students for Choice member peered right into the pro-lifer’s face and shouted, with the others, “We’ll be back!  We’ll be stronger!  We won’t take this any longer!”
            And what about the pro-lifer?  For weeks Students for Life has encouraged this very pro-choice male and his club to consider dialoguing with SFL, but he has refused.  Pro-choice groups have claimed that a debate will only further divide the two groups, but they will willingly engage in a monologue against pro-lifers who have no means of answering.
            Sometime after this occurred, another pro-life advocate, legally carrying a large sign of a third trimester abortion up and down a crosswalk, stayed put when the angry passenger in the car yelled at him – and continued to stand as the car that held the passenger slowly approached him and hit his sign, pushing it into him.  Finally he stepped aside, but his fellow advocates snapped pictures of the car and scribbled down the license plate number.  Students for Life is discussing whether or not to press charges.
            The atrocities continued into Sunday, when several pro-abortion advocates washed away some of the pro-life sayings chalked all over the Diag and on the surrounding sidewalks.  When asked about the University’s “expect respect” campaign, the pro-choicer responded that he didn’t know what that was.  Once educated, he didn’t appear at all fazed but continued to speak on how he was offended by what was written on the sidewalk, disregarding the blatant disrespect he displayed in violating others’ freedom of speech.
            For some in the pro-choice movement, such conduct is an issue of education, but for thers – such as the male who taunted the pro-lifer at Liberty Plaza – terms like oppression and disrespect flow freely.  The pro-choice male, after all, has claimed to be gay and has attested to the oppressions society has impressed upon him.  This isn’t a matter of pro-life v. pro-choice but of mutual respect for a fellow human being.  This isn’t about a war over ideology but a chance to offer love when it hurts most.  This isn’t a matter of equal rights extended to the unborn but equal rights extended to the born.
            Certainly pro-life advocates have committed disrespectful actions in other scenarios.  On such an overtly biased campus, however, Students for Life has no room for any even seemingly oppressive actions.  Yet in the hub of this injustice, SFL and other pro-life groups should count it all joy – it only affords more opportunities to love those least deserving of respect.   

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Will the Pro-Choice Advocate Please Stand Up?

On Wednesday, March 30, at 7:00, we will be hosting bioethicist Scott Klusendorf at Rackham Amphitheatre.  We tried for weeks to find a pro-choice speaker to have a forum with Mr. Klusendorf, but the dozens of professors, Planned Parenthood representatives, and student groups we contacted refused to participate in the event. 
Smells like fear to us - or a case of pro-abortionists doubting their own arguments.  Events Chair Joe Lipa drew up a press release detailing the dilemma:

Pro-aborts Decline En Masse to Debate Pro-life Bioethicist at U-M Abortion Forum
ANN ARBOR, MI—Despite its reputation as one of the most liberal universities in the country, the University of Michigan and surrounding Ann Arbor community has failed to produce an opponent to challenge pro-life bioethicist and author Scott Klusendorf at a public abortion awareness forum. The on-campus event, to be hosted by U-M Students for Life (SFL) on March 30, was originally planned to be a co-sponsored debate-styled forum in which each side would present its view on abortion. However, the absence of both a co-sponsor and speaker for the pro-abortion side has resulted in the transformation of the scheduled debate into a pro-life rally.

UMSFL had contacted dozens of pro-abortion individuals, groups, and organizations—including the local Planned Parenthood—over the course of a month and a half, according to president Claire Levis. While a few individuals expressed initial interest, in each case the invitation to participate in the forum was ultimately declined.

“We exhausted the list of every influential pro-abortion person we could find,” Levis said. “In a place like Ann Arbor, that’s a lot of people.”

University clubs contacted included Students for Choice, F-word, and FemDems of U-M College Democrats. Individuals contacted were members of the university women’s studies program, philosophy department, and stem-cell research lab. UMSFL indicated that each speaker would be given equal time and promised a “civil, unbiased setting” because “our club and indeed the movement itself has nothing to fear and nothing to lose from an unbiased event.” Some of those clubs and individuals who did respond to the invitation apparently felt otherwise.

“We are under no illusions about the event’s intent or the speaker’s bias,” one response email stated. “We certainly won't legitimize the event with our time, financial resources or members.”
Another reply stated, “We are not interested in participating in this event…Understand that we are confident in our beliefs and we are not too ‘scared’ to discuss them. There's really just no point in us getting together to fight, as it will do nothing but make people upset and further divide us.”

To aid the search, the club posted flyers around campus seeking “pro-choice advocates who can passionately and intellectually defend the merits and strengths of the pro-choice position.” Ironically, the only responses received were from concerned members of the pro-life movement. UMSFL Events Chair Joseph Lipa reported receiving an email from the coordinator of the area’s 40 Days for Life spring campaign who was worried that Klusendorf would not have sufficient support at the debate.

“He was relieved when I told him that it was actually the other way around,” Lipa said. “The dedication of the pro-life movement here is really incredible.”

Klusendorf, author of the book The Case for Life, specializes in defending the pro-life position from a philosophical and scientific point of view. He will still speak at the event and address any challenges from the audience afterward, but Lipa says he expects the atmosphere to be more conducive to a pep rally than to a debate.

“You can’t really have a debate without two debaters,” Lipa said. “Nevertheless, it’s still an opportunity for people of both sides or in the middle to further explore the pro-life position.”

While Levis also has high hopes for the revised event, she expressed regret that so many university abortion advocates were so reluctant to discuss such an important issue.

“We are disappointed that those who support abortion in private will not stand up in public and give an intelligent account of why they believe what they do. Perhaps it’s because they question if a convincing rationale exists.”

The Abortion Forum will take place on Wednesday, March 30, at 7pm at Rackham Amphitheatre on the University of Michigan Central Campus. There is no cost and everyone, regardless of opinion on abortion, is invited to attend.

U-M Students for Life welcomes any comments, questions, or clarifications.