Vandalism of abortion display detrimental to discourse

By Clare McGreevy
Staff Writer

The debate over abortion rights is arguably one of the biggest dividing conflicts facing our country today. Unfortunately, the College’s campus community is evidently not immune to the drama surrounding the pro-life versus prochoice binary.

Pro-choice students deface the Green Lawn display (Photo Courtesy of The Students For Life).

Following an almost yearly trend, the TCNJ Students for Life’s “Graveyard of Innocents” was evidently stolen and replaced with a handwritten sign reading, “don’t make memorials to guilt-trip women.” Based on a Campus Police report filed earlier this month, certain individuals (likely an anonymous pro-choice group or individual) decided to vandalize a peaceful and simple display of signs and flags representing aborted babies in the name of women’s mental health.

It goes without saying that this is a dangerous affront to free speech, but the vandalizers’ supposition that the intention of the display was to “guilt-trip” women who have had abortions is almost even more troubling to me. As a pro-life feminist, I take this accusation very seriously and personally. Incidents like this one remind me that pro-life support is immensely misunderstood by prochoice advocates.

The Students for Life Club’s display included several signs with sensitive and sympathetic messages such as “there is hope and healing after abortion,” “society is failing these women and children” and “you are not alone.” The display clearly exhibited sympathy for those women who are also victims, not villains, and even provided resources to help heal. While I understand that comforting messages cannot successfully bandage the wounds that these women might have, it is painstakingly obvious that the intentions of the display were not to “guilt trip” women.

There is only one foundational difference between pro-life and pro-choice beliefs –– the definitions of what or who constitutes human life. Both groups are advocates for human rights — prochoicers believe in the rights of women to control their own bodies and lives while pro-lifers believe that the preservation of early human life often ethically supersedes this.

I am a pro-life feminist because I believe in the rightful power and freedom of women everywhere, including those women who are unborn and deserve a chance to live just like their mothers. I don’t think that this makes me a monster anymore than I think that my prochoice peers are monsters for disagreeing with me and valuing unborn life less than I do. I don’t think that it is reasonable to assume that all pro-life advocates are misogynistic oppressors just as I don’t think that it is reasonable to assume that all pro-choice advocates are murderers. These are examples of the appalling insults that believers on either side are constantly hurling at one another, and this is the type of rhetoric that prohibits understanding and mature respect between us all.

I understand that many women have painful experiences with abortion and seeing such a display, despite the pro-life attempt to provide supporting messages and resources, could be an emotionally triggering experience for them. No situation involving abortion is easy.

But this is a college campus and we are all adults here. This is not some type of utopian community in which we ignore important political and humanitarian issues because they are unpleasant. We address them because we have to.

According to a 2018 gallup poll, pro-life and pro-choice citizens are evenly split at 48 percent each, with 5 percent undecided leftover. The right to abortion is an extremely relevant debate that can and should be addressed on college campuses, which are traditionally ridden with political activism. While a sensitive topic, abortion rights shouldn’t be ignored for the sake of hurt feelings. This is the time and place to talk about it.

I wish that everyone agreed with me, but I also understand that we all have different experiences that frame our vantage points. Pro-choice advocates are not bad or evil people — they just understand the principles of human rights differently than I do, which is something I always keep in mind. I wish that the pro-choice advocate(s) that vandalized the memorial would give the pro-life students on this campus the same respect and consideration.

Students share opinions around campus

“How do you feel about the vandalized pro-life display?”

Jordanna Bernard, a freshman interactive multimedia major.
“People should have an open mind when it comes to different opinions and try to understand both sides.”
Megan Macapagal, a freshman
psychology major.
“Since it is a very touchy subject, people need to show respect for other opinions.”

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