The effects of bullying, harassment, and false advertising are demonstrably negative. We know this. We also know that inhibiting free speech – especially on a university campus, is not conducive to a fruitful learning environment. The line between these two things, however, is not always so clear cut.
Before the holidays, the Auckland City Campus was targeted by a pro-life chalking campaign, which featured such enlightening slogans as; ‘Abortion hurts women’, ‘Adoption not Abortion,’ and the classic ‘Pro-women, Pro-child, Pro-life.’ Quick, everyone – close down the abortion clinics! Let’s flush centuries of struggle for women’s control over their reproductive systems down the toilet, because contrary to research done by academics and health professionals, abortion hurts women!
I won’t give the pro-lifers the satisfaction of going into all the fallacies of their arguments, because:
- There are simply too many to cover here, and
- The vast majority of us already know the group is ridiculous and regressive. Abortion is legal and accessible in New Zealand, and that is not likely to change anytime soon.
My problems with pro-life on the UoA campus lies in their touting of ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘it’s our opinion’ adages. It’s pretty much the only thing they have going for them, and what let them become an AUSA affiliated club in the first place. For at least the past 6 years, Pro-Life has engaged in similar pro-life campaigns on campus, all based on the premise that women who are considering or have had abortions Know Not What They Do. In essence, the pro-lifers are saying that every woman who has ever had an abortion made the wrong decision – a decision involving solely their own body, no less. Well shit. That must mean us wimmen ain’t got a lotta smarts.
But surely not every pro-lifer is a backwards-thinking misogynist? Some of them must be rational people who want a world of gender equality, albeit with more babies in it, right? Actually, no. Anybody who thinks women are incapable of deciding what is best for them does not get to claim respect for human rights. Following this vein of thinking, it follows that pro-lifers are discriminating against people who have chosen to have abortions. The only reason anti-choicers chalk, or poster up universities is to guilt-trip women who have made or are considering a difficult decision, with no regard to what circumstances or reasoning caused that choice.
To clarify, it is fine to believe that abortion is wrong; that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it. What you should not be entitled to do is to come into a university campus and advocate against the right to make that decision. Upon engaging with the ProLife Auckland Facebook page, I was told that protesting their chalk campaign was ‘as absurd as getting worked up about a group who opposed having appendixes out.’ Well call me crazy, but any attempt to undermine human rights and prohibit medical procedures is not ok. Conversations about how we can best support single mums or pregnant women are more than welcome on campus, and prolife is admittedly doing a good thing with their annual $5000 scholarship for solo mums (this is in addition to support that the university and AUSA already provide to mothers studying at UoA).
However, this does not change the fact that no one should have to come to university and be bombarded by bullshit statements designed to shame them merely for exercising their human right to access a safe, legal medical procedure. Prolife: our campus is a place for learning, not bigotry.