Upsetting protests offer poor reflection of pro-life movement, harm students

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GRAPHIC BY ANGELA VASISHTA / THE FLAT HAT

Last week, the Center for Bioethical Reform set up a graphic demonstration at the College of William and Mary depicting images of aborted fetuses and comparing abortion to the Holocaust and other tragedies. This group was not invited by any pro-life organization at the College. Despite repeated attempts to convince the Center for Bioethical Reform to refrain from demonstrating at the College — including meeting personally with their representative — Tribe For Life was unable to prevent the demonstration from occurring. As the executive board of Tribe for Life, we believe that all life is valuable and must be protected by individuals and the government from conception to natural death. A unique, human person is formed at conception. This individual is genetically distinct from either parent, possessing his or her own independent genetic code. We believe that the intentional destruction of innocent human life is unjust, and the destruction of a fetus is no exception.

That being said, our organization aims to spread the pro-life message without the use of graphic imagery or condemnatory language. Displays such as that of the Center for Bioethical Reform are reactionary and offensive and, most importantly, have the potential to cause further trauma to women who have had abortions, dredge up painful memories, and even negatively affect pregnant students on our campus. These tactics have no place at the College and should not be mistaken as representative of Tribe for Life’s approach or the approach of the pro-life movement as a whole. Additionally, Tribe for Life is a non-partisan group, and the political agenda of the representatives from the Center for Bioethical Reform in no way reflects our views or opinions or those of the pro-life movement as a whole. The pro-life movement extends across the political divide. As the only undergraduate pro-life group at the College, Tribe for Life chooses to not condone this action and instead seeks to demonstrate what a truly life-affirming message looks like.

We empathize with women who experience unexpected pregnancies and reject any effort to shame these women. Simultaneously, we refuse to accept the narrative that abortion is a solution to the hurdles that pregnant women face. Instead, we advocate for providing resources and care to struggling women. Not only do we believe that this support should be extended to parents and preborn children but also to families with children who have been born. In keeping with our vision for a pro-life world, we advocate for reforms that improve access to resources for struggling families on both local and national scales. We want to see women supported and elevated in all parts of society, starting first by supporting pregnant and parenting students on our campus and connecting them to the many resources at our disposal. By publishing a pregnancy and parenting resource guide and offering personal assistance to pregnant students, we hope to educate our peers regarding their rights on campus. Title IX protections extend to pregnant students, entitling parents to support networks and protecting their legal rights, such as the right to retain an athletic or academic scholarship, regardless of unexpected pregnancy. Additionally, speakers that are invited to the College by Tribe for Life — such as Serrin M. Foster of Feminists for Life this spring — emphasize the importance of both the mother and the child in any conversation about abortion, especially by supporting protections for abuse survivors and paid maternity and paternity leave.

While we reject the demonstration of the Center for Bioethical Reform, Tribe for Life was saddened to see some of the rhetoric used by the counter protestors at the demonstration. We want to remind students on our campus that joking about and making light of abortion is harmful and inappropriate. In spite of one’s opinion on the abortion issue, abortion is always a weighty and emotionally taxing choice for a woman to make, and that experience as well as the lives of preborn children should never be mocked or trivialized. There were also signs referencing miscarriage that could have been triggering to pregnant women or those who have suffered from miscarriages in the past, including one sign that was designed to look like it was covered in blood. To the credit of the counter-protestors, member of our organization brought this specific sign to the attention of the counter-protestors, who then took it down. Students at the College should make an effort to be more thoughtful and compassionate in dealing with deeply emotional issues such as these. We share in the distress of our fellow students at the Center’s display and wish to remind them that they are not alone in their struggles. All life must be protected, and we make it our mission to do so through compassionate and inclusive care on our campus and in our wider community.

Email Patrick Britti at mpbritti@email.wm.com, Savannah Orsak at sjorsak@email.wm.edu. and Rita McInerny at rcmcinerny@email.wm.edu.