Speakers advocate for safe spaces for pro-choice discussion and representation
By Pat Gainor, Staff Writer
Over 200 Xavier students and faculty members gathered at Husman Stage for a reproductive rights rally yesterday.
“I understand the university’s inclination to protect life and birth as something that is sacred, which I have full respect for,” Sam Gielink, first-year Philosophy, Politics and the Public major, said. “But at the same time, I think that the university should be giving an equal platform to those who share a different view.”
Rally attendees signed a petition addressed to Xavier administration demanding the right to create a pro-choice group.
“We believe that all students at Xavier have the common right to discuss their beliefs, regardless of race, gender or political identity,” the petition reads. “Furthermore, we believe that all students have a right to be educated about reproductive health. Reproductive rights are healthcare. Reproductive rights are human rights. All students at Xavier University have the same right to have their beliefs heard in an equal way.”
As of yesterday, 216 signatures have been recorded on the petition.
“I feel like there’s been a lot of representation for people who are pro-life throughout campus, and I as a pro-choice student feel like I’m not being allowed to be represented through a voice at Xavier,” Maggie Ridgeway, Classics and Philosophy Honors AB major, said. “If one side is allowed to have a voice in this, we should also be allowed to have a voice in this regardless of the university’s personal policies on abortion.”
Five speakers addressed protest attendees, each of whom gave their respective stances from diverse perspectives and viewpoints regarding the right to choose and the right to have their beliefs be recognized on campus.
Annalese Cahill, junior Philosophy, Politics and the Public major and Student Government Association President, spoke about fear that students felt returning to campus in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 24.
“Students were hurt by the (Dobbs) decision itself, about what they were seeing on social media, and students were really scared,” Cahill said.
“What we needed in this crucial moment was a protected space to talk about this current event. We needed resources to protect ourselves from unplanned pregnancy, and we needed guidance. We didn’t get it,” Cahill continued.
Besl Chair Dr. Bethany Henning addressed the crowd as a representative of the faculty: “Education enhances your capacity for discernment. Right now, in the absence of safe and reliable birth control, in an environment that discourages comprehensive sexual education, equal access to education and professional opportunity is not guaranteed.”
Henning added that one cannot make judgments on decisions made by people experiencing unplanned pregnancies.
“The infinitely complex factors that come into play when a decision must be made in response to an unplanned pregnancy are things that we cannot judge from the outside,” she said. “It is impossible to say in advance what the right and the moral course of action should be for any particular individual. And this, for me, is the crux of the matter.”
Finally, three Xavier students from different years gave speeches that acknowledged the administration’s emphasis on Jesuit values and spoke to the terror women feel.
“Xavier praises the Jesuit value of reflection, which includes challenging the status quo, acknowledging bias and accepting responsibility for our actions. Are we challenging the status quo if we refuse to change?” junior English and PPP major Morgan Miles asked. “Is Xavier forgetting the Jesuit values that they praise when they aren’t acknowledging biases?”
“Since Roe v. Wade has been overturned, I have been terrified — terrified for myself and terrified for others. Terrified that the change of getting pregnant will offset the course of my life, and I will have no say in it. Terrified for what I or any other woman or anyone may have to endure. Terrified to be forced to give birth in a country with a high mortality rate where odds are three times worse being a person of color or a minority,” first year speaker Olivia Ratliff said.
“This forced birth ideology — with no help after birth — will not be tolerated. We will not abide by your pro-birth agenda. We will not stand by and watch as our basic human rights are stripped away one by one,” Ratliff concluded.