On April 20th, groups representing both sides of the abortion debate discussed the issue at Southern Methodist University. The event, hosted by the SMU Feminist Equality Movement and moderated by its president, Julia Cantú, featured representatives of several groups, including:
- Collette Levine for Catholic Campus Ministry
- Luciana Milano of Law Students for Life
- Ben Matthews, Executive Vice President of Human Coalition (representing College Republicans)
- Destiny Herndon De La Rosa of New Wave Feminists (representing Mustangs for Life)
- The Embrey Human Rights Program (represented by Dominique Earland)
- Audrey Reeves of Women in Science and Engineering
- Candice Russell, who has been involved with NARAL and the National Abortion Federation (representing Feminist Equality Movement)
- Evan Stone, representing the “pro-choice legal perspective.”
Life begins at conception
Curiously, the pro-life panel was the first to be asked when life begins and when rights as persons should be granted. I felt that it would have been more interesting to present this question first to the other side. (If life doesn’t begin at conception, then where do we draw the line?)
Pro-choicer Audrey Reeves, who was once pro-life, discussed her views on this “line,” expressing her opinion that in the first trimester, “the woman’s right to her body trumps that of the baby’s.”
Daniel Rosa, President of Mustangs for Life, told Live Action News:
The Pro-Life side asked two questions that summed up the whole dialogue: 1. Does life begin at conception? 2. Do we have an obligation and a duty to protect that right to life? If we can agree that the child is alive at conception, then why shouldn’t we honor that person in the womb?
One point of common ground between the two camps was that the adoption and foster care system needs to be improved upon.
Pro-choicer Candice Russell said she was present at the event because she had an abortion. (What’s interesting is that in saying this, it’s as if Russell assumes that no pro-life woman could possibly have an abortion in her past.) Russell said her mother was 14 when she became pregnant and was at an abortion facility when she decided to leave. Russell claimed her mother “regretted her decision to parent,” and Russell acknowledged that her own “unparented and unsupported” life with such a mother played a large part in her own decision to abort her baby. Russell believes her abortion was “the most unselfish choice that I could make for that child.”
But adoption surely could have helped all involved in Russell’s situation. Abortion robs a child of his life — it is not “unselfish” to kill someone because you believe you cannot personally support him. Killing a child does not give him a better life. Adoption, however, is unselfish, giving the gift of life to both a child and a couple waiting to adopt, enriching many lives.
On the positives of adoption, pro-lifer Collette Levine encouraged women to “think of all the people who are waiting on the adoption wait list,” suggesting that “those are the people who in many ways would benefit from an unplanned pregnancy… finds a way to dignify it and make human, [and] allow everyone the fullness of life.”
Education on the issue is important
The common thread of reducing abortions centered around contraception and sex education.
Pro-lifer Herndon De La Rosa advocated for education on fetal development as well. Women considering abortion may not know about embryology, and those who profit from abortion certainly have no interest in seeing those women educated on the subject. The abortion industry opposes ultrasound laws and informed consent laws. Beyond that, Live Action has documented Planned Parenthood’s own highly inaccurate counseling for women.
What kind of a procedure is abortion?
According to pro-choicer Russell, we should accept abortion as “a legal health care procedure,” which is “not something that’s up for debate.” She likened abortion to all other health care decisions. One problem: Other legitimate health care decisions don’t target human beings for destruction; abortion does.
Pro-choicer Reeves claimed abortion is not a violent procedure. But once again, the child being killed was completely ignored; Reeves only referred to effects on the mother, taking issue with claims of abortion’s side effects and risks, despite what women have experienced.
If these procedures described by former abortionist Dr. Anthony Levatino aren’t violent, then what is?
What about the Constitution?
Pro-lifer Milano spoke at length on the law and the Constitution, describing our rights as not only a question of science, but a question of law and philosophy. She reminded attendees that neither abortion nor the right to privacy are in the Constitution, and said the question “when do human beings have rights,” actually “presupposes humans receive rights, your right to life, from government.” And the government is not what gives us rights.
Drew Wicker, President of SMU College Republicans, spoke to Live Action News about this concept, noting:
The essence of both arguments tends to refer to the Preamble of the Constitution, as well as the 14th Amendment. When referencing these pieces of the Constitution, it becomes clear that within the promises of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the pro-Life side believes that life is a necessity to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The pro-Choice argument tended to come from the idea that it is the liberty of the individual that should be prized above all else, and that the deprivation of an individuals liberty, particularly on the subject of whether or not to terminate a pregnancy, had the potential to diminish one’s quality of life and therefore hinder the individual’s pursuit of happiness…
Are pro-lifers really pro-life?
Pro-choicer Russell sees “feminist” as a verb, but if she had her way, pro-lifers would cease to fight against abortion and would instead fight for government programs, and for those whom she refers to as “already living” — as if fetuses are non-living entities and as if fighting certain injustices is mutually exclusive.
None of the pro-life resources mentioned seemed to be enough for Russell.
Pro-lifer Destiny Herndon De La Rosa, who lives in Texas, commended the Texas Women’s Health program, which now has involvement from OBGYNs. She pointed out that it is “a very, very scary thing” that Planned Parenthood is perceived as having “somewhat of a monopoly” on women’s healthcare — even though Planned Parenthood is actually outnumbered by the thousands by Federally Qualified Health Centers and Community Health Centers offering more comprehensive women’s healthcare. Herndon De La Rosa stated that giving women access to healthcare options other than Planned Parenthood would be truly “pro-choice.”
Russell noted that Planned Parenthood is not the only entity to perform abortions (pro-lifers never said they did, but they definitely commit the most — nearly 35 percent of the nation’s abortions). Russell also lamented the fact that some smaller, independent locations seem to be closing — but it is Planned Parenthood that is often running other abortion facilities out of business. It’s also the one closing a number of its own centers — primarily the locations which don’t commit abortions.
Russell also blamed legislative bodies for cutting social services, claiming, “I think that has less to do with Planned Parenthood trying to be a monopoly, but more to do with the fact that Planned Parenthood is having to fill this gap that’s there not because they want it to be there, but because our government is forcing them to.”
This claim is utterly without merit. Russell claimed that Planned Parenthood provides vital services, such as Pap smears and cancer screenings — but not only are Planned Parenthood’s legitimate health care services decreasing, it only provides 0.97 percent of the nation’s market share of Pap smears, and 1.8 percent of breast exams.
Russell attacked those who would defund Planned Parenthood, asserting they would “change poor women from being able to access basic health care services.” Nonsensically, she also stated that “it doesn’t really have anything to do with abortion, it has to do with women’s health care.” (If this were true, why did Planned Parenthood’s CEO just recently say otherwise, claiming abortion is “a necessary service” that is “vital” to their mission? Why did Planned Parenthood announce in 2010 that each affiliate would have to begin offering abortion in the few years following?)
Pro-choicer Evan Stone repeated the misleading claim that only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortions, which Slate called “the most meaningless” statistic ever. The numbers are explained here, and in this video:
Overall, after the event, SMU College Republicans and Mustangs for Life were pleased, and moderator Julia Cantú also stated, “Overall I was surprised and impressed, as the moderator, by the tone of dialogue and the common humanitarian ground the panelists found to consider going forwards.”
Video of the event is here.