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Pro-life: Wrong, but not quite crazy

When I think of the anti-abortion movement, I think about people standing outside of the Supreme Court with red tape over their mouths or old men with scraggly hair skulking on street corners and holding posters depicting aborted babies in pools of blood. Do I think of the word sensible? No way. Fanatics? You betcha. For the millions who support a woman’s right to choose, the anti-abortion movement is one of the more frightening factions in the United States today.

The first time I laid eyes on an anti-abortion demonstration, I was a freshman. As I came around the corner of Jimenez Hall, I saw 3,500 little blue and pink flags planted across McKeldin Mall. My first thought was, could there really be that many gas lines running across the mall? When I realized that I was looking at a protest by Students for Life to symbolize the number of babies aborted daily in the U.S., I grumbled something about organizing a game of capture the flag and moved on.

The abortion issue is one that continues to divide Americans because of its complexities and gray areas. So it was with great anxiety that I decided to attend a Students for Life meeting last Monday. Tucked away in the basement of Jimenez Hall, I went into the meeting prepared to do battle with religious extremists who were likely to preach death and damnation to all baby killers (and provide some great material in the process). However, what I found surprised me.

They started off by making red envelopes addressed to President Obama as part of a nationwide campaign to send 50 million empty red envelopes to the White House, each to symbolize the number of babies aborted since Roe v. Wade, according to organizers of the initiative. What theatrics, I thought. Yet as the meeting went on and I had a chance to listen to their opinions, what I found weren’t fanatics on the verge of bombing abortion clinics but intelligent students passionate about their cause. They didn’t think those who were against the anti-abortion movement were bad people, only misinformed. While my mind wasn’t changed about the issue itself, it was about the movement.

Any group that invokes discussion through provocation risks its credibility and alienating those it wishes to convert, but we see it all too often today. Whether it be planting 3,500 flags representing babies “killed” in a single day or erecting displays that compare abortion to the Holocaust and genocide, we should learn that the shock factor isn’t always the best route.

Abortion is a complex issue, and like any complex issue, it doesn’t have a simple solution. A woman’s decision depends on various circumstances, and while it’s easy to side with one extreme or another, we shouldn’t pass judgment on strangers, and that goes for both sides.

At a university this large, there is a wide range of opinions on many different issues, but it seems all too often we opt to close ourselves off to those who differ from us. We could all learn something by taking a minute to stop shouting, take a deep breath and listen.

Justin Snow is a sophomore history major. He can be reached at snowdbk@gmail.com.

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