Story by Therese B.
Unfortunately, what happened on campus this week isn’t surprising.
Live Action UCLA, the pro-life club that sponsors this online newspaper, invited its original founder and now famous pro-life activist, Lila Rose, to return to her alma mater and give a speech. Lila is coming in two days and her talk is called “Abortion: Exploitation or Empowerment?”
To advertise for this event, our club did what all good Bruins do: we set up a poster on Bruin Walk — the main avenue through campus where (often to the chagrin of the student running late for their 9 am) we are bombarded by flyers, posters, succulents for sale, requests to help stop world hunger and (on a good day) maybe some free coffee! Well, we joined the fray and set up a 2 by 3 ft signboard advertising our club on one side and Lila’s event on the other.
This past weekend, our poster for Lila’s talk was stolen. Since then, we’ve repeatedly found our club sign turned to face the bushes and have even caught someone knocking it down with a kick. And on Thursday, we found that someone had pulled the poster out of its frame and placed it facedown on the ground. Like I said, we weren’t surprised.
Why not? It’s not because I think that theft and vandalism are the MO of the average pro-choicer. I have more respect for them than that. Some of my best friends at UCLA are pro-choice, and they are wonderful people. They are open-minded. We argue, we disagree, and we respect each other.
This week was different. Someone chose to steal rather than open themselves to the discomfort of hearing another opinion (or at the very least, letting others choose to do so). It’s not the end of the world; our club did spend a lot of time and $41.99 on the poster, but they aren’t irreplaceable. It’s a minor theft…But it was wrong. Stealing is stealing. And even more than that, it shows that someone thought that because they disagreed with us, we didn’t have the right to talk. They silenced dialogue. It makes me angry. And I’d like to think that most pro-choicers would find my anger justified. I think they would agree that the thief was in the wrong, and that you don’t get to do whatever you want just because you disagree. So if I find this theft uncharacteristic of most pro-choice people, then why am I not surprised?
The truth is, there are radicals on both sides. A few weeks ago, the President of Planned Parenthood Leana Wen came to speak at the UCLA Med School at the invitation of Medical Students for Choice. Nina, the president of our club, went to hear what she had to say. As expected, Nina disagreed a lot, so she wrote an article explaining why. We published it at Life Source. But she left the talk discouraged: Dr. Wen spoke at length about pro-lifers she had seen screaming at women as they entered Planned Parenthood. Unfortunately, some pro-lifers do adopt this tactic, but almost all would condemn it. They are an aggressive minority compared to the many more who stand peacefully outside abortion clinics as silent resources and witnesses. Nina hoped that the pro-choice audience wouldn’t take this image of angry and aggressive pro-lifers and apply it to the movement as a whole.
The average pro-lifer doesn’t yell at women as they enter an abortion clinic, just like the average pro-choicer doesn’t steal pro-life advertisements. But sometimes, in the heat of the moment, we assume the worst and label the other side as radical or bigoted. And when facing a challenge to an ideology we care a lot about, it’s a lot easier to dismiss the source than to engage the idea.
We hope many pro-choice UCLA students attend Lila Rose’s talk this Monday. Obviously, I hope she’s persuasive and changes minds. But I also want to be challenged and hear other perspectives. Whether pro-life or pro-choice, we can agree that the state of abortion in our country is reaching a crisis, and it needs to be resolved. That will only happen if we open up, put our heads together, and hash it out. It won’t be touchy feely; it’ll be messy. But it can be constructive and courteous, and it needs to be done.
It can start this Monday.