The views expressed in the following article are the opinion of the writer and do not reflect the opinions of the Newswire staff as a whole.
Last week I, along with other students, was shocked to walk into Gallagher and see signs, tables and medical instruments informing students that late-term fetuses feel pain and asking them to support legislation banning late-term abortions. As startled as I was, I walked toward the table and began to ask questions. The students running the booth were polite and informed. Even as I stood in front of them in a Planned Parenthood t-shirt and expressed my support for a person’s right to choose a safe and healthy abortion, Xavier Students for Life were incredibly respectful of my viewpoint.
But there was one question that they couldn’t answer for me — why were they allowed to table free from scrutiny? As president of Xavier Democrats and an individual passionate about protecting a person’s right to choose, I have asked members of Xavier’s administration about the possibility of hosting an event dedicated to reproductive justice. Consistently, I have been told that such an event would not be allowed. Explicitly, I have been told that abortion is an off-limits topic, but what I wasn’t informed of was that only my viewpoint on abortion was an off-limits topic.
As students who support a person’s right to choose, we cannot fundraise for Planned Parenthood on campus or have them come speak with our club, even though a majority of their services are solely dedicated to women’s healthcare. We are not allowed to distribute educational materials that discuss and advocate for the constitutional right to choose an abortion. However, Students for Life are allowed to partner with outside organizations, fundraise for them and distribute their materials. Their activities are relatively free from administrative scrutiny, a privilege that we have never been afforded. This double standard is infuriating and unacceptable, especially on a campus that claims to celebrate diversity of thought.
I understand that when I chose to attend a Jesuit institution, my education and extracurriculars would be impacted by Xavier’s Catholic faith tradition. That’s why I chose to attend Xavier. I was excited to begin college somewhere that would educate me in the liberal arts tradition, as well as value being men and women for and with others.
As is the Jesuit tradition, I am proud of my school for taking a stance on human rights. Xavier stood up for the rights and dignity of immigrants when DACA was threatened and has begun to work even harder to stand up for survivors of sexual assault. Not all of Xavier’s campus has agreed with those stances, and students have loudly voiced their opinions about border security and false accusations.
These differing opinions have led to a dialogue about the rights of immigrants and survivors that spans across classrooms and clubs, with each side entitled to their viewpoints. Being able to express different opinions is the only way to learn about and find compromise within such polarizing issues. At Xavier, we believe in acceptance of students from all faith traditions, ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses and political ideologies. Why, then, is my stance as a pro-choice student stifled?
After all, Jesuit values not only inspire us to ask the hard questions, they demand it. They don’t ask us to blindly follow our faith tradition but to challenge our beliefs and emerge stronger. If there isn’t equitable access to different opinions, that can’t be done. Students for Life can table about fetuses, but that’s only half of the story.
Jesuit values tell us to respect the dignity of all human lives, to understand that we are social beings and to protect the poor and vulnerable. Women debating how to cope with an unplanned pregnancy are the vulnerable. Often, without access to affordable healthcare, childcare or paid family leave, these women are also the poor. Medically, emotionally or financially, they are not prepared for pregnancy or a child, and it is imperative that their voices are heard and respected.
That’s why I believe in the right to choose and have access to a safe, healthy abortion, and I believe in the freedom to express that sentiment. Neither my personal faith as a Catholic nor Xavier’s Jesuit values are contrary to those beliefs. Why, then, does it feel like my pro-choice voice is being silenced by the same administration that guarantees another student organization the ability to give a voice to the voiceless?
Sam Peters is a junior Philosophy, Politics and the Public and economics double major. She is a guest writer for the Newswire from Aurora, Ill.