This week marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion and affirmed that people with a uterus have the right to choose what’s best for them in conjunction with their doctor, without the interference of politics. However, this weekend also marked the “Walk for Life” march in San Francisco, in which hundreds of anti-abortion activists toted pictures of babies and religious icons. When I walked past the march, I noticed that, while there were many women, the majority of the participants were cisgender men. In fact, the current president, John Paul Dugyon, of USF’s anti-choice group ‘Students for Life’ is a cisgender male. What I don’t understand is why people without a uterus are trying to tell me what I can and cannot do with mine.
Although it’s been established that access to abortion is a legal right, there continues to be a squabble over reproductive health care despite the fact that it’s been proven that having access to those medical services is good for both individuals and society writ large. In fact, a study conducted by UCSF confirmed that women who are blocked from having abortions are far more likely to wind up below the poverty line, unemployed and dependent on public assistance. They were more prone to staying with their partner, but also more likely to have experienced domestic abuse and feel less positive about their relationship. However, having an abortion doesn’t have a negative impact on mental health, and the vast majority of those that do have an abortion feel it was the right decision even after the fact.
People are at liberty to choose whether or not they want an abortion. It’s not my business what you choose to do with your body, nor is it anyone else’s. However, seeking to eliminate that right is an active attack against anyone with a uterus. Consider the death of Savita Halappanavar, the woman in Ireland who died due to being denied an abortion because public policy dictated that the fetus that was killing her was more important than her life. Think on the hundreds of thousands of other women across the globe who have suffered and continue to die under similar circumstances or by seeking unsafe ’back alley’ abortions when they don’t have adequate and unfettered access to the health care they need. To those who call themselves pro-life, I implore you to look in the eyes of someone who could potentially want an abortion at some point in their life and tell them you want them to significantly harm their own chances at living a prosperous, happy and healthy life for the sake of a microscopic group of cells.
Many members of the Students for Life club at USF are unsure whose notion of ideal Ms. Rhoades cited in her February 2nd opinion “USF Students For Life Club Less Than Ideal.” The organization is based upon an ideal. In an ideal world, parents do not terminate the lives of their children, doctors do not administer death to patients, and keepers of justice do not stoop to repaying wrongs with murder. In an ideal world, the dignity of human life is upheld. There is everything commendable about trying to bring these ideals into the world, and everything reprehensible about having ideals and doing nothing.
There is agreement when Ms. Rhoades says “being exposed to viewpoints that differ from [our] own is a good way to promote civil discussion,” but one cannot help but disagree with her next statement: that “when dealing with…issues like abortion, physician-assisted suicide, and capital punishment, it seems like having a campus club is not the wisest choice for promoting discussion of varying opinions.” When one decides to express an opinion, it does not do to merely think it. Expression requires action or word; so we are doing both. Furthermore, while open discussion is beneficial to learning about others’ thoughts and promotes deep reflection about values and ideals, discussion is not enough to bring about ideals.
I am unsure how to approach Ms. Rhoades’s self-contradiction. That “USF has an illustrious history of hosting pro-choice speakers, specifically at their Global Women’s Rights Forum in March of 2010,” is clearly at odds with her statement about University backing of the group: “It appears as though the University only supports a single viewpoint, putting the institution truly at odds with those in disagreement.” It seems as though she would only have pro-choice sentiments communicated, while excluding the expression of the opinions of Students for Life, and still “implore the University to encourage discussion as opposed to giving the appearance of supporting a single viewpoint.”
Ms. Rhoades also cites the University’s reputation as a reason to oppose the club’s existence: “USF’s support for this organization doesn’t seem like a good way to solidify its reputation as a progressive educational institution in which people can discuss their viewpoints.” It seems that some think that the reputation of the University is in jeopardy if certain members of the University make our ideals known. However, many would agree that the reputation of this institution has already been solidified in its 150 plus years of existence, and that its good reputation is unthreatened by a human rights student organization seeking to uphold the rights to life of unborn children, death-row inmates, and the esteemed elderly. If anything, the presence of Students for Life testifies to USF’s reputation of being a place to discuss viewpoints and further the cause of social justice.
Please note this is a personal response to “USF Students For Life Club Less Than Ideal” (February 2, 2010). Though this response was reviewed by the organization’s student head, it may not reflect the opinions of all members of the club.