OPINION: There’s nothing ‘pro-life’ about the anti-abortion messages in Speakers Circle

Content warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of abortion.

Dear Mizzou students for life,

Every Monday evening, on my way home from film class, I walk through the Speakers Circle, the MU’s center for free speech. And lately I’ve been totally disgusted with what’s on the concrete beneath my feet.

Phrases like “Unborn lives matter,” “It’s not a choice, it’s a human being,” and “Abortion stops the heart beating” were chalked out on the Speakers Circle to promote Mizzou Students For Life’s anti-abortion ideologies .

Meanwhile, abortion rights advocates across the country have been screaming at the top of their lungs for decades, begging lawmakers — at the state level, nearly 70% of lawmakers have no idea what it’s like to have a uterus, let alone get pregnant — for access to protect abortions. Nevertheless, after the reversal of Roe v. Wade quickly passed a nationwide abortion ban in June, depriving millions of people of their right to comprehensive reproductive health care.

Missouri’s abortion ban is one of the strictest in the nation and is a sore many MU students face every day. The last thing we need on this campus is an organization to rub salt in this wound. I speak directly to MSFL when I say your chalking campaign is callous, unwarranted, and steeped in the misguided notion that your coalition has anything to do with telling other people what to do with their own bodies, especially when Missouri has already done so.

The inflammatory language that appears week after week in Speakers Circle does nothing to empower those with wombs to “choose life.” Instead, it stigmatizes abortion and shames those who choose to have an abortion. By resorting to sensationalist phrases like “Vote against child dismemberment,” MSFL shows no interest in truly empathizing with the varied circumstances faced by pregnant people.

Many factors such as Factors such as existing parental responsibilities, financial resources and timing of a pregnancy may prompt a pregnant person to consider termination of the pregnancy. Becoming a parent isn’t a viable decision for everyone, and while putting a child up for adoption is an alternative to parenthood, the US foster care system is already overpopulated.

Notably, MSFL includes the web address of Standing With You, an online pregnancy resource, in some of its chalk messages. MSFL also volunteers at Columbia’s My Life Clinic, a facility that offers services such as STD testing, pregnancy testing, and ultrasounds. Both sources overemphasize the potential risks of abortion, although legal abortions in the United States are safe, effective, and rarely lead to complications, according to a 2018 study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

Abortion can have a variety of physical and emotional consequences. But given My Life Clinic’s role as the Life Network of Central Missouri program, it is abundantly clear that discouraging abortion is of paramount importance to the clinic. Life Network of Central Missouri leverages religion-influenced anti-abortion rhetoric that romanticizes the “rescue” of mothers and the unborn child from abortion, rather than considering all reproductive health care options from a patient-centric, pragmatic perspective.

Of course, resources are essential for those looking to continue their pregnancy. Regardless of the legal status of abortion, pregnant people deserve a society willing to uplift them when they choose parenthood. That attitude is certainly echoed in MSFL chalk messages, but the unequivocal idea that “women deserve support, not abortion,” falls short of the egalitarian fervor it is intended to inspire.

As well-intentioned as the phrases “love them both” and “women deserve support, not abortion” may sound, these attitudes are anything but feminist. Women deserve support AND access to abortion – the two need not be mutually exclusive. Regardless of the amount of resources available, nothing should force a person to give up physical autonomy.

The dogmatic claim that “life begins at conception” is not shared by all facets of the US population. Therefore, the MSFL should stop using its anti-abortion rules to support biased pregnancy resources, and stop fooling people into believing they are obligated to use their bodies a certain way.

While Speakers Circle facilitates free speech — a cornerstone of American democracy, to be sure — that doesn’t make MSFL’s protected speech any less explicit, insensitive, or unsolicited.

I don’t think this open letter will change anyone’s mind. While I can accept this result, what I cannot accept from myself in this situation is silence. As a woman, an Illinois native, and a staunch supporter of abortion rights, I can no longer ignore the harmful views that have literally become part of the campus landscape.

Clever sleevar

Edited by Ezra Bitterman and Molly Gibbs | [email protected]
Copy edited by Jacob Richey

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