This past weekend, our campus hosted the largest student-run pro-life conference of its kind, the 16th Annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life.
Georgetown students brought in speakers from different backgrounds to address the morality of abortion and other life issues. In response to the mere presence of pro-life activists on campus, H*yas for Choice felt compelled to protest the event, ignoring invitations to attend themselves instead.
On the protest’s Facebook page, they called the ideologies of the speakers “misogynistic, racist, homophobic and xenophobic,” insisting that their opinions were “offensive to the majority of students.”
They lauded these accusations despite the fact that the latest Gallup polling showed 46 percent of Americans identifying as pro-life. This is not some fringe, hateful group in our country; we are a strong, growing population that is seeking to come to a better understanding of what life is and how to protect it in all of its stages.
No meaningful dialogue can take place when one side of the issue repeatedly refuses to converse, resorting instead to name-calling. Equating the pro-life movement with all that has ever been wrong in the world is the truly offensive act. The left prefers to think of everyone they disagree with as being motivated by some dark, deep-seated desire to oppress a minority group. Although easier than having morally complicated arguments, this compulsion to demonize those they disagree with is driven by emotion and not based on reason or presented facts.
According to the H*yas for Choice blog, what they seem to have meant in describing certain pro-life ideologies as “homophobic” was that some of the speakers opposed in vitro fertilization. Since many pro-life advocates view human embryos as human life in need of protection, IVF poses an ethical problem as it creates life only to destroy it.
However, it is not a process exclusively used by the gay community and gay couples can form families through methods like adoption. Given this, it remains unclear exactly how believing that IVF unnecessarily brings life into the world only to destroy it is an inherently homophobic belief.
The racist accusation seemingly stems from the fact that one of the speakers, Damon Owens, is a black pro-life activist who points out the undisputed fact that black women have a disproportionate amount of abortions. Nevertheless, black lives matter, and Mr. Owens work has focused on protecting that life at every stage. How Owens’ concern for his community and advocacy on the issue of what he sees as millions of black deaths per year make him racist is beyond any rational comprehension.
In contrast, the Cardinal O’Connor Conference sought to have a real discussion on life issues. During the daylong conference, distinguished scholars and thinkers discussed a wide variety of issues, ranging from the death penalty to what it means to be an autonomous person with rights. Hundreds of conference attendees came together from diverse backgrounds from across the country, representing multiple identities, to have these meaningful and challenging conversations.
Pro-choice voices are not oppressed on this campus. Over the course of the past year, the President of H*yas for Choice, Abby Grace (SFS ’16), has published five opinion pieces for The Hoya, decrying the perceived lack of free speech and the need for better sexual education, but she never offered a definition of life or personhood.
There’s a real debate to be had here. When does life begin? The moment after a baby exists the birth canal and not a second sooner? When a fetus can feel pain (sometime between 16 and 20 weeks)? At the moment of conception? The abortion debate is not about systematic oppression, perpetuating inequalities between the sexes, or any other socially constructed ill taught in an intro to women’s and gender studies course.
Pure and simple, it’s about when life starts and making sure this is protected. This is a deeply important question to address in order to respect the innate dignity of every life. Let’s stop the character assassination and have this conversation.