By Hannah Gonzalez
On Wednesday, April 5, Respect for Life (RFL) put on an interactive display titled “Where does Life Begin?” The event aimed to promote discourse among the student body surrounding the question of human rights during fetal development. However, despite RFL’s attempts to avoid discord, some showed up to protest against the stigmatization of abortion.
The display itself was set up outside McGinley. As part of Respect for Life Week, it featured descriptions of the stages of human development from conception to birth and invited students to stick a post-it note wherever they believed life began.
The event was formed as an alternative to “Memorial of the Innocents,” a tradition of previous years. Instead, the club chose this year’s “Where does Life Begin?” as part of an attempt to open conversation on the question of when human rights come into effect.
“It seems like [‘Memorial of the Innocents’] causes a lot more discord than discourse,” said Larissa Ross, FCRH ‘19, the secretary of Respect for Life. “[‘Where does Life Begin?’] opens a dialogue that is much more valuable than something that is less interactive.”
Despite the change in display, however, during the course of the day, protesters appeared outside McGinley directly across from the demonstration. They held signs with phrases such as “Abortion Saves Lives” and engaged in conversation with passersby. At one point, a pair of protesters approached RFL members to talk about the display.
“It was a very good discussion,” said Maggie Rothfus, FCRH ‘20, a member of RFL. “Both sides knew they wouldn’t get anywhere with the other side, but it was nice to have open dialogue.”
Lili Huang, FCRH ’19, a member of SAGES, said the group protests RFL’s display because it is triggering to those who have had abortions. This year’s display was not as insensitive or offensive as those previously, she said, but it was still problematic.
“This year’s display, while not as blatantly triggering as in previous years, still urges onlookers into shaming those who have had or will have abortions in their lifetimes for ‘killing babies,’” she said in an email interview with The Fordham Ram.
Rebecca Erwin, FCRH ’18, also said this year’s display was an improvement but just as insensitive as those prior.
“I’m glad that this year’s demo was much smaller and less visible, but it was still equally insensitive,” said Erwin.
Both Erwin and Huang said the display presented misinformation on abortion.
“It wasn’t that we were trying to make a statement,” said Rothfus. “Our group is known as a pro-life group, so anything we do has that attached to it.”
The clear divide between the groups was a subject of interest for onlooking students.
“It certainly seemed a bit hostile,” said Justin Handsman, GSB ‘20. “RFL didn’t seem too intrusive, and were simply conducting a survey. I don’t think that a poll warranted a full protest.”
Others, however, saw it as a positive example of dialogue between different sides of the debate.
“I was walking by and saw two groups arguing about pro-life and pro-choice,” said Raj Ghayalod, GSB ‘20. “It was surprisingly civil. You didn’t see the pro-choice yelling at the pro-life, or vice versa. It was kinda nice; I was like, ‘That’s how it should be.’”
Going forward, Respect for Life hopes to continue to stimulate conversation over controversy on campus. “Even if you disagree with us, come and talk to us,” said Ross.