Every year, the relatively male-heavy group, Students for Life, dominates White Plaza with their bold symbolic protest against abortion, and every year the all-female Students for Choice group stands with a humble table nearby, helping to re-ground students who might otherwise be seduced by the hugely emotional display. There are 464 crosses, one for every 100,000 fetuses legally aborted since Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court in 1973.
Two years ago, after seeing the display for the first time, I wrote the following letter to the Stanford Daily:
I saw the crosses today. Although I am no longer an active Catholic, the use of the cross still elicits a deeply emotional response from me. I do not approve of abortion, but I also do not approve of making it illegal, because that leaves vulnerable women in the lurch. The only truly compassionate balance here is a pro-choice balance.
Pro-life groups could do their cause a huge service by advocating changes to our system and society that would ensure that women did not feel helpless or alone when facing an unwanted pregnancy. That would probably save more lives than shoving a hugely emotional and significant symbol in the face of our decidedly pro-choice student body. You are hurting a lot of people who struggle to deal with this difficult balance.
Sophomore, Political Science
Interestingly enough, even though the group kept their hugely emotional symbolism, they also handed out fliers addressing (commendably) the point I made:
The unborn have not been the only victims of Roe. Every cross on the lawn represents abortions that have been performed on women, many of whom ever after remain emotionally and even physically scarred. Alice Paul, the author of the original Equal Rights Amendment (1923), called abortion “the ultimate exploitation of women,” and there can be no doubt that this is indeed the case. Our society has betrayed women by offering them no viable alternative to disposing of their unplanned children. Those in the already stressful situation of facing an unexpected pregnancy are told they must have an abortion or face losing their jobs, their respect in society, or the support of their loved ones. While we must emphatically assert that killing 46 million people is not the solution to the problem, we also recognize that abortion is a symptom of larger social and cultural disorders that we have a duty to address. In working to end abortion, we must simultaneously work to increase the support, education, and pregnancy resources available to women.
Agreed. So when will Students for Life be updating their total? The sign says that 46 million people are victims of Roe v. Wade. But if all of those aborted fetuses have a mother, the total number of ‘victims’ under Roe should be double that. If Students for Life is going to match their rhetoric with action, they might want to consider a whole separate protest just for women and would-be mothers. Gosh, wouldn’t that be an oxymoronic display? A Students for Life “Rally for Women’s Rights!”
But, alas, I do not wish to conclude on a sarcastic note. Every time the issue comes up, I am left feeling messy. Because it is so messy. Even if the whole of society welcomed each woman’s pregnancy with open arms, I don’t know that abortion would just come to a natural end. A look at the data suggests not. About 43% of American women will have one or more abortions in their lifetime, and not all of their reasons for doing so are clearly related to “society doesn’t support me.” Have a look.
I can only try to put myself in a woman’s shoes. Some women just say that they are not ready to have a child, and with that I can certainly sympathize. My life is pretty much run according to my own plan. Go to college. Graduate from college. Get a job. Go to grad school. Somewhere, get “married.” And after I’m all grown up and mature, I’ll take on raising a child.
Given my sexual orientation, I will indeed choose when to raise a child. Were I a woman, however, I would have to take extreme care to reach the point where I’m ready to raise a child without getting pregnant.
If I did get pregnant before I was ready to raise a child, would I want an abortion? Yes, probably. Would I get one? Could I live with my decision?
These are all difficult hypotheticals to fathom, which is why it’s almost impossible for men to get a grasp of the entirety of the issue. I could see myself getting an abortion, and I could also see myself living with it. After all, it would be early in the pregnancy, it would be quick and safe, and in the end, I would say to myself, “At least I was able to terminate the pregnancy before it got to be too much like a human.”
But I would try not to dwell on it, and I certainly would never want to see 464 tiny white crosses on the lawn at the center of my college campus memorializing all of the victims of people like me.
Would that be selfish? Probably. And that’s probably why the anti-abortionists will never fully welcome women as the other half of the victims of Roe.
In the end, in many cases, it really does come down to mother versus fetus. And it’s mom’s choice. Her beliefs be damned.