Anti-abortion display shuts down productive discussion on campus

Cara Zajac, Staff Writer

The following is an opinion piece and does not reflect the views of the Tulane Hullabaloo.

Being called a murderer is a rough way to start a walk to an 8 a.m. statistics class. A student-run, anti-abortion group installed a symbolic ‘graveyard’ Wednesday in the middle of the Lavin-Bernick Center quad to commemorate the 3,600 people who elect to have a legal abortion every day. While anti-abortion groups should certainly have the freedom to demonstrate just as every organization on campus should, they should not be allowed to shame individuals who make informed medical decisions.

To start off with some statistics, the 3,600 figure is misleading. One percent of those abortions occur as a result of rape or incest, three percent due to health problems with the fetus, 11 percent because the mother is too young health-wise or socially speaking, and 16 percent as a result of negatively impacting the woman’s life and health, according to Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group. The remaining number represents the individuals who elect to end a pregnancy for other reasons. 

The issue to be addressed here is that the demonstration implied that people with uteruses who have elected to terminate a pregnancy have ‘murdered a child,’ which seems like a heavy accusation to place on a stranger whose life circumstances the group has never asked about. By shaming individuals, this group has effectively taken away certain students’ rights to share their own experiences and stories without immediate judgment. By oversimplifying a complex issue, the anti-abortion organization removed the agency and freedom of expression from individuals in an unhealthy way.

A previous editorial discussing the lack of respect for conservative voices on campuses stated, “American colleges and universities should be incubators for new and unorthodox ideas. While some ideas may be offensive to certain people, college campuses should be a place where all different points of view and ideas are heard.” How can this be attained if people with liberal views are assaulted with guilt-ridden, aggressive displays?

We should strive to uplift and support women in every possible way. Given several student deaths this year and the ongoing problem of sexual assault on college campuses, triggering demonstrations should be actively responded to in a way that promotes positive mental health and growth.

Students United for Reproductive Justice, Amnesty International and the Tulane College Democrats, among other progressive student-run organizations on campus, responded in a way that was mature, responsible and positive. These organizations didn’t seek to silence or shame other individuals, but instead sought to support their fellow students with signs such as, “Your decisions are valid,”  “You are loved” and “We support you.”

In addition to their caring and empowering attitudes, these students raised money for a New Orleans-based non-profit, the New Orleans Abortion Fund, that seeks to assist individuals to make informed, health-minded decisions concerning their reproductive health. They didn’t seek to silence or put down the anti-abortion rights group. Instead, they presented a space that sought to support and enable people in the choices they make.

All groups have the right to demonstrate, but no one has the right to make Tulane a space where students should feel afraid or intimidated because of their decisions. We should be on campus to educate ourselves, as well as to build community. That community can’t be built with triggering, disrespectful and hateful displays at the center of campus. Luckily, the dozens of students who turned out to support and respect their peers and raise money for an excellent cause shows that Tulane values its community more than fear.

Cara Zajac is a senior at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]