Viewpoint: Bringing life to the debate

BY TAYLOR CROOKSTON

Published April 16, 2014

As an institution, the University constantly calls for total inclusivity, diversity and tolerance. Unfortunately, it fails to ensure such principles in a number of contexts. One glaring example can be seen within the conversation around abortion. As a leader of Students for Life, I have firsthand experience with the suffocating chokehold the University has placed on pro-life viewpoints across campus. I believe that the way in which the University blatantly supports abortion has extremely detrimental effects across campus. The only way this University can meet its full potential and live up to its promises is to allow its students to think for themselves in an environment where inclusivity, diversity and tolerance are genuinely celebrated and not smothered.

Currently in Lane Hall, the University — more specifically, the Department of Women’s Studies and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender — is hosting a pro-abortion exhibit titled “4,000 Years for Choice” that has offended and ostracized many pro-life students. There are some students that are appalled that the University would use taxpayer dollars to fund such a one-sided display on such a contentious issue. Others are horrified by the exhibit’s claim that “abortion is a gift from God.” However, I have come to expect such things from my University. From hearing it link pro-life ideology and terrorism together to discovering that it offers practicum courses with volunteer time at Planned Parenthood, at this point, it is hard for the University to shock me with its sponsored partisanship.

Still, this latest stunt is exceptional for a variety of reasons. “4,000 Years for Choice” is not an event; it is a constant stream of propaganda. It is on display in Lane Hall for an extensive amount of time, through the end of this semester and throughout all of May. Each student who enters Lane Hall during this time will immediately be bombarded with messages that we should “applaud” abortion activists and “praise” the illegal abortionists of the past. The exhibit even contains directly political overtones by its call to “celebrate Roe v. Wade.” In addition, it propagates insanely paradoxical statements that abortion is “life-affirming,” “a gift from God” and that “religious freedom = abortion access.” This exhibit belongs at Pro-Choice America fundraisers and National Abortion Federation conferences (where, unsurprisingly, its creator has had displays in just the past year alone), but it does not belong in Lane Hall. If it were to be on campus, students who support it should have brought it — not paid for with taxpayer dollars and officially promoted by the University.

The fact is that the University does not have the right — and it certainly does not have the ability — to create a consensus on campus that abortion is an accepted and moral practice. In fact, on a national scale, the exact opposite consensus is gaining traction. Gallup reported in 2012 that pro-choice Americans were at record-low numbers and that a majority of Americans now self-identify as pro-life. However, Gallup further reported that the majority of Americans hold the perception that the majority opinion in the United States is pro-choice. This misjudgment is directly related to institutionalized partisanship that can be seen in University-sponsored exhibits like that of “4,000 Years for Choice.”

Looking past this exhibit and into my own experience at the University, what really saddens, discourages and frustrates me is that the disdain the University shows for pro-life values converts a space that was designed for the flourishing of intellectual discussion and debate into an environment of exclusion, stagnancy and intolerance.

I am tired — as are the thousands of other pro-life students at the University — of being force-fed ideology.

Teach us how to think, not what to think.

Let us discuss and debate as students and faculty in community together, and allow genuine conversation to take place without presupposing the conclusion.

I am tired of my fellow students being too scared to speak up as pro-life in the classroom, in the Diag and in our social circles.

I am tired of being at parties and having peer after peer “confessing” to me in a whisper that they share my pro-life convictions. Students should not have to draw off some liquid courage before being able to speak about how they truly feel about abortion.

Yet the University ensures that pro-life students know that they and their beliefs are unwelcome here and I am tired of it. It’s time for the University to stop sponsoring events like “4,000 Years for Choice” that create a false sense of pro-choice unanimity on campus. The University owes it to us, its students and its own incredible legacy as a place of higher learning to stop dictating debate and thereby allow meaningful intellectual discovery and growth to take place.

Taylor Crookston is an LSA junior.