Anti-abortion protest reveals need for abortion dialogue

Tess Riley, Staff Writer

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This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

Wednesday, members of my freshman dorm protested the anti-abortion demonstration on Newcomb Quad. Tulane Students for Life had planted a number of pink and blue flags covering most of the quad, each flag representing a baby that was aborted. It seemed they intended for the flags to create a visual depiction of the number of lives that never lived due to abortion. To me and many of my peers, however, each flag represented a woman who had to make an extremely difficult and personal choice. By planting these flags, these demonstrators were disrespecting that woman’s choice. They were condemning her decision as wrong.

One might wonder how many women on this campus have flags in that soil. How many women walked past this display and felt as if the whole world was judging them and weighing in on the most personal aspects of their life? How many women had to relive the complex emotions of that experience walking to class? I believe the students at Tulane are highly intelligent individuals, perfectly capable of making their own informed decisions. The display of flags may have made a statement, but it was not going to change anyone’s mind.

While engaging in debate with some anti-abortion protestors, I learned that there is a spectrum to the anti-abortion sphere. Some people would like to completely abolish abortion, while others would choose to allow it only in cases of medical necessity or rape. I appreciate the open-minded side of this spectrum but still find issue with it. There is no foolproof way for a woman to prove that her pregnancy was the product of rape, nor is there a way to determine an absolute rule for medical exceptions. There is no way to allow some abortions but disallow others. There are too many unique circumstances and gray areas to account for. Every woman should be able to assess her own situation and make the choice that she feels is the best decision for her safety, well-being and success as a person.   

I completely support every student group’s right to demonstrate and make their voices heard. This large scale visual display, however, had the potential to make women at this school who have had experiences with abortion feel judged, unloved and unsafe in a place that they have chosen to call home. It was a slap in the face to anyone who has had an abortion or will have one in the future. It advocated for the unborn at the expense of the incredible women who had to face their complicated and possibly painful decisions once again on that quad.

Despite my issues with this style of demonstration, I was surprised and grateful that the members of Tulane Students for Life were very composed in the face of our protest. While many of us engaged in a passionate debate while holding signs, some of our protesters were yelling. The anti-abortion representatives remained calm as they tried to create an open dialogue between the two groups of students. They were happy to share their beliefs and explain their opinions. While I did not necessarily agree with their stances, I greatly appreciated the respect they showed myself and my peers. I would hope that eventually a moderated debate could be held in which both anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights students could come together to defend their differing opinions while also seeking common ground on other issues surrounding women’s rights.

In the future, I would hope that instead of focusing on just taking away abortion, anti-abortion demonstrators could focusing on things they could support that would make it easier for a woman to choose against abortion. I think more people would be receptive to anti-abortion dialogue if they focused more on what could be done to help pregnant women, new mothers and their children, especially those with limited resources. They could raise money to support foster children or adoption agencies.

Simply abolishing abortion is not a solution to anyone’s problems. In fact, it will cause more problems because women will be forced to find unsafe ways to terminate pregnancies. Abolishing abortion without providing the resources to make life livable is not feasible. While the demonstration had some information regarding these resources, the main message received was one of judgment. Instead of focusing on why they believe having an abortion is wrong, anti-abortion movements should focus on how giving birth can be a feasible and beneficial experience for a mother if they want to garner more support for their cause.