Note: As the author of this article, it should be noted that I am on the board of Students for Life and was involved in running this event. Nonetheless, I maintain the accuracy of this reporting.
On Tuesday, April 24th, Penn State Students for Life held a demonstration on the HUB Lawn, where they covered a section of lawn with miniature pink and blue flags, as previously reported by the Daily Collegian. These flags represented children killed daily by abortion, which, in combination with signs and a counter-protest, sparked conversations about whether life in the womb should be protected.
Students for Life members maintained their demonstration from 8 AM until 4 PM, with signs posted around the lawn describing the event. Members also distributed the following flyers to passersby, which included the same information on the signs.
Other signs were posted reading “Life is the loving option. Love the woman. Love the child,” “Women Need Love Not Abortion,” and “I Am the Pro-Life Generation.” One of these last signs was ripped out of the ground by an angered student and thrown in a nearby trashcan.
The morning of the demonstration saw a mix of reactions from students and onlookers. Some people were thankful that SFL was speaking out against abortion, while others were angered by the display, jeering and yelling at SFL members as they walked past.
By about 12:30 PM, a group of pro-choice counter-protesters arrived to voice their opinion of abortion. College Democrats President Katierose Epstein held up a pink sign saying “Abortion. Let’s talk about it.” Later, more counter-protesters arrived with more handmade signs reading, “Women need love AND abortion,” “Keep your laws off my body,” “Women need freedom,” and of course, “My body. My choice.”
What seems to be missing from the abortion conversation is an honest consideration of the mothers affected by abortion. Abortion is not something anyone truly wants. It is a last resort, and these pro-choices refuse to address why. If abortion is merely a medical procedure removing a clump of cells, what is so morally agonizing about it? SFL continually expresses their desire to love women by supporting them through their pregnancy, yet the pro-choice side shouts ever-louder that true freedom for women manifests in the ability to slaughter their children.
While the intent of this counter-protest was likely to divert attention away from pro-lifers, it only drew larger crowds and sparked more discussions. Several students remained to discuss abortion with members from both sides, as opposed to simply receiving a flyer and continuing on their way, as did most students in the morning.
Two students argued on separate occasions with SFL members that being pro-life must extend into other political domains, specifically by supporting Black Lives Matter and the LGBT movement, despite these members maintaining that SFL has no position on those movements. Still others argued that SFL must support free birth control, sexual education in schools, welfare, and other social programs in order to be pro-life. Otherwise, these students argued SFL was only being pro-birth.
In response, SFL members spoke about their involvement with the Pregnancy Resource Clinic downtown and their support of Federally Qualified Resource Centers in general, which both offer financial and medical assistance to mothers and their children, before and after birth. They also argued that people can disagree on how a child should be raised and still agree that that child ought to have the right to life in the womb. Some members of SFL support birth control, sex ed, and welfare programs, while others do not. Still, all members maintain that killing children in the womb is no solution and is harmful to the mothers, both physically and mentally.
While conversations like these were productive and genuine on both sides, other discussions had on the HUB lawn were not. Several counter-protesters exclaimed that men were “not allowed” to voice their opinion on abortion, that is, if they disagreed with it. One of these counter-protesters, Nena Rapposelli, went on to complain about the “inaccuracy” of an SFL sign displaying a human fetus at 12 weeks gestation. While the Daily Collegian did report on this, they did not explain her qualms with the depiction. Rapposelli, majoring in women’s studies and psychology, claimed the picture below is inaccurate because a fetus at 12 weeks “looks like a plum, just a clump of cell.” When questioned, Rapposelli remained adamant of her claim that 12 week old fetus’ look like plums and not like the developing human child shown. She maintained that she had the authority to say this from her women’s studies classes, which have taught her all about “women’s rights.”
Referencing this same picture of a 12 week fetus, one man visiting campus with his family pointed it out to his two young daughters, saying “This is what babies look like in mommy’s tummy.” His daughters were amazed and ran up to the sign, touching which parts their father identified as the placenta, umbilical cord, amniotic sack, and fetus. This father assured me that his own children resembled the depiction shown at 12 weeks, not a clump of cells taking the shape of a plum.