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.