Students for Life and Secular Student Alliance debate abortion

By Katie Burke, For the Daily
Published October 24, 2011

Three weeks after the Center for Bio-Ethical reform held a pro-life presentation on the Diag that spurred controversy across campus, murmurs of the issue were heard again at a debate last night.

In the Kuenzel Room of the Michigan Union, members of the Secular Student Alliance and Students for Life gathered to discuss the 1973 Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade — which defined abortion as legal until a fetus is “viable” — in an event hosted by the Michigan Political Union.

The question of the definition of life was repeatedly contested on both sides. While the Secular Student Alliance argued that life is a continuous process with no definitive beginning, Students for Life countered with the idea that life begins at conception.

“Human development begins at fertilization and does not stop at birth,” LSA sophomore Joe Lipa, a member of Students for Life, said.

The discussion was heated during the 90-minute debate. Both sides expressed frustration about the complex argument concerning the definition of life and the rights of both women and fetuses.

While speaking about the illegality of abortion, LSA junior Dakota Hadfield, a member of the Secular Student Alliance, hit the podium and called abortion unfair.

“This is masochism being offered to you by sadists,” Hatfield yelled.

Earlier in the debate, LSA sophomore Katie Dieckman, a member of the Secular Student Alliance, held up hangers and knitting needles — which she said are instruments used for abortion in countries where it’s illegal — to argue the danger of abortion alternatives.

“This is the reality we are forcing if abortion becomes illegal,” said Diekman, while holding the instruments.

The Secular Student Association also talked about how an overturn of the Supreme Court ruling would directly affect poverty and mortality rates and unfairly penalize women and doctors.

LSA junior Anna Paone of Students for Life said there are ways to support women’s rights without harming others.

“Feminine empowerment does not mean killing unborn women,” Paone said.

Throughout the debate, members of Students for Life held steadfast in their beliefs of the rights of the dependent unborn over those of the mother, while the Secular Student Alliance stayed constant in their views of the mother’s right to choose.

“Our rights end when someone else’s begins,” LSA senior Elise Aikman, a Students for Life representative, said.

LSA sophomore Sahana Prasad of the Secular Student Alliance, countered: “(Abortion is) depriving the fetus use of the body … which the fetus has no right to in the first place,”

In an interview before the event, Rackham Graduate School student Andrew Patton, a member of Students for Life, said he saw the debate as an opportunity for students to see the principles of his group.

“I think people make the mistake that the decision to be pro-life is irrational,” Patton said.

Though there were criticisms voiced during the debate, Public Policy junior Michael Jacobson, a Secular Student Alliance representative, proposed that the two groups work together to address the roots of abortion. Unplanned pregnancy and alternatives to abortion were proposed to be the focus of future conversation.

“No one on our side is for killing babies, which is essentially what abortion is,” Diekman said.