Campus responses to controversy

Last Tuesday, speaker Kristan Hawkins sparked debate about free speech on Xavier’s campus. We asked Students for Life and the demonstrators at this event to speak about what this event means to them and how it affects free speech on Xavier’s campus as a Catholic institution.*

*Xavier has yet to clearly define its position following preliminary reporting by the Newswire.

The Demonstrators

This piece was written and endorsed by:

Miles Tiemeyer, Sam Peters, Trey Espionsa, Isabella Serna, Jaret Hughes, Grayson Walker, Aaron Ticknor, Abby O’Keefe, Ben Leraris

If you truly love an institution, you’ll never stop critiquing it, because the day you do is the day you’ve failed it. That’s why we, as pro-choice students at Xavier, are writing to you: To explain our position and dedication to making the university we love a place where all students can flourish.

Across Xavier’s campus, pro-life groups can discuss and present a very narrow view of reproductive justice without any fear of repercussions from the administration. As pro-choice students, we do not have that same right. We are not able to start our own club, host our own events or provide resources to help Xavier students become educated on the full spectrum of views about reproductive justice. Whether it’s a student’s position that abortion should be legalized at every stage throughout pregnancy, only before a heartbeat is detected, only before the final trimester or something else, those ideas should be presented at a university that values diversity of thought.

We want to make it abundantly clear that we are not attempting to limit what Students for Life can do. We are asking for equity of expression and that all restrictions on our speech be lifted.

Throughout the last week, the most common critique we have received is that we should accept this lack of equity because we attend a Catholic university. This critique fails to consider that we aren’t asking Xavier to endorse our viewpoints; we are asking it to allow us to share, explore and educate other students.

Throughout our Jesuit education, we have been taught to question and engage in dialogue with each other about everything we learn to ensure our fundamental beliefs are something we can truly believe in. However, abortion has become the one issue that Xavier has specifically not allowed us to follow this teaching on. Nothing should be held sacred or accepted as true without proper research, discussion and analysis. Xavier students cannot be expected to fully understand the nuances of reproductive justice if only anti-choice views are presented.

48% of Xavier’s students are not Catholic, and the Xavier community embraces them and the diversity they provide. Having students with differing backgrounds and viewpoints helps us all to grow. Why should we not include the full spectrum of viewpoints surrounding reproductive justice?

We have a Muslim Student Association, a Jewish chaplin and countless Protestant organizations to celebrate religions that are not inherently Catholic. There are even clubs that advocate against climate justice and against humane immigration reform, all of which are contrary to Jesuit values. The opinions expressed by these clubs do not align with the totality of Church doctrine, but that does not mean they are or should be suppressed. Why is reproductive justice the exception?

Even for the 52% of Xavier’s campus who identify as Catholic, there is no guarantee their beliefs are in accordance with Church teaching. According to the Guttmatcher Institute, 98% of sexually active Catholic women will use a method of birth control banned by the Vatican, something Xavier will not talk about nor provide. After all, the gag rule on reproductive issues stretches beyond the legality of abortion. We are unable to safely distribute birth control and other contraceptives or discuss them without fear of repercussions. A conversation about safe sex practices and access to resources, such as birth control and condoms, is imperative in preventing unwanted pregnancies.

Preventing these pregnancies is the only way to truly halt the need for abortion care. However, the one-sided view of reproductive justice allowed on campus does not highlight this connection. Xavier needs to open up discussion surrounding reproductive justice beyond the anti-choice position.

We understand that for many people, this issue can seem extremely black and white. However, there is a wide spectrum of viewpoints about abortion, and in order for Xavier students to understand the issue fully, all views must be allowed to be explored.

There must be discussion on campus beyond how a zygote is impacted by abortion. Let’s talk about how a lack of abortion care impacts women from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds unjustly, how prenatal and childcare options are limited or nonexistent for many of those women and acknowledge that it is not only women, but everyone with a uterus who deserves bodily autonomy. These, among other issues, need to be raised before we can assume that we are taking care of the least of neighbors by stripping them of the ability to choose their own our future.

We, as pro-choice students, are not asking to perform abortions on Husman stage. We are not asking Xavier or anyone who attends this university to endorse our views. We are asking to be allowed to express them.

*This piece is closed from responses