Each year, Georgetown Right to Life, a group on campus that opposes abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty, among other issues that threaten the value of human life, hosts Life Week in the spring. Although it was a pleasure to coordinate this year’s Life Week as the group’s vice president, the campus political climate was disappointing as it failed to yield any true and effective form of dialogue.
Like many other groups on campus, Georgetown Right to Life believes that dedicating a week of the year to our cause is effective not only to raise awareness but also to serve our community. Over the course of Life Week, we host speaking events, participate in service projects and hold our annual Flag Day, during which we cover Copley Lawn with 2537 flags: one for each child aborted in a day, the drastic loss of life being just one of many negative consequences of abortion.
It is important to note that Life Week, much like the “pro-life” movement, is not only about abortion. Because our group believes that human dignity is at the core of our social justice movement and extends throughout the life of an individual, we host events on a variety topics, from euthanasia to the death penalty. During this year’s Life Week, for example, we hosted Mary Forr, the founder of Teaching Together, to talk about the intersection of disability and life issues, especially as they relate to physician-assisted suicide.
Although during Life Week, we successfully raised awareness and resources for women in need, I am disappointed that it did not promote a greater dialogue about life issues on campus. As a Democrat who supports the dignity of every human life, I believe that there are many progressive and conservative values that fit naturally together to create a culture of life.
The best way to accomplish this synthesis is through dialogue, but the increasingly polarized political spectrum has made this virtually impossible, especially at Georgetown. After The Hoya reported on our Life Week events, H*yas for Choice, a student-run reproductive rights group on campus, issued a statement calling all of our events “appalling.” Although many people who identify as pro-abortion rights may have reservations about attending our events, simply dismissing each one as “appalling” demonstrates an unwillingness to engage in dialogue. Indeed, such charged language and harsh rhetoric leaves no room for common ground.
H*yas for Choice’s destructive comment shocked me, particularly because the group recently published an article titled “Zika, Fear, and Recycle Oppression” about the intersection of disability and abortion, specifically in relation to the Zika virus. Although the blog post was written by Brinna Ludwig, the president of H*yas for Choice, it discussed several points about the stigma that abortion casts on people with disabilities that resonated with me as the vice president of Right to Life, and were discussed by Forr at our Life Week event. That event had the potential to provide the common ground needed to better understand each other, but it, along with the bake sale and diaper drive we organized to support women and children in need, were dismissed by H*yas for Choice as “appalling” before anyone had even attended them.
Although many people who identify as pro-choice may have reservations about attending our events, simply dismissing each one as “appalling” demonstrates a complete lack of professional consideration and a desire not for dialogue, but rather to offend and inflame tensions.
I, on the other hand, attended two of the Choice Week events in late March. I have many fundamental disagreements with the D.C. Planned Parenthood CEO Laura Meyers, but I attended her talk because I wanted to learn more and to voice my opinion through civil discourse. I believe that this is the political model we need at Georgetown. I am not afraid to stand up for my beliefs in the face of blatant hostility, but I think it would be more productive if both sides could learn from each other and find ways to work together for common causes, such as supporting single mothers or those with disabilities.
Yet, we still cannot come together because of a strict adherence to a “side.” I am a Democrat and a member of the “pro-life” moevement, but I see fewer and fewer people like me who hold beliefs that cross party lines. Increased polarization means people are unlikely to cross into the supposedly opposing camp, and in so doing, refuse to even consider a different perspective, no matter how similar it may be to their own. This behavior is not only destructive to dialogue on campus, but it also spells further conflict in our country’s wider political culture.
MyLan Metzger is a sophomore in the College.