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Student Assembly Votes Down Resolution on Pro-Life Activism

On Sunday night, the Undergraduate Government of Boston College’s Student Assembly voted down a resolution sponsored by Michael Proietta, MCAS ’19, that called for UGBC to acknowledge and recognize “pro-life activism” as a “legitimate and important form of advocacy,” which would allow UGBC’s advocacy “to become more comprehensive and effective in affirming the diverse interests of students.” Members of the SA felt that in order for the resolution to be comprehensive and unbiased, it would need to be amended to include the support and recognition of pro-choice advocacy. The vote was 13-5 against in a blind ballot.

Recognizing that “pro-life” has many facets, Proietta quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which reads, “human life must be respected and protected absolutely, from the moment of conception.”

Though the terms pro-life and pro-choice are commonly used when referring to abortion, Proietta said that his use of pro-life based on the Catechism includes opposition to euthanasia, capital punishment, social irresponsibility, and other issues that fall on both sides of the nation’s political spectrum. Proietta also recognizes that abortion is among the most controversial and poignant issues to be discussed on a college campus.

Proietta also stressed that recognition is not the same as affirmation, and that passing this resolution is not the same as declaring UGBC as pro-life. During the debate and questioning periods, various SA members expressed concern about how the other side of the issue, pro-choice activism, was not recognized by the resolution. Proietta was unwilling to amend the resolution to include recognition of pro-choice activism.

The next speakers were Abigail Young, president of the Pro-Life Club of BC, and Natasha Bednarz, both MCAS ’17. Proietta introduced them by saying that as women, this issue directly affected them, although he later stated that the proposal was not about abortion, which he called a minor part of pro-life activism.

“To deny the legitimacy of a particular form of activism is fundamentally contradictory to the essence of advocacy, and frankly denies the creation and activity of a significant portion of the student body,” Young said.

Bednarz said that she is a feminist because she is “pro-woman,” and that she is pro-life because she is pro-woman.

“I think that women deserve more than abortion,” Bednarz said. “The social and cultural currents that push abortions as the ultimate liberating choice and an easy, sensible, ‘no-strings-attached’ way out do not actually have women’s best interests in mind.”

Bednarz said that “unrestricted abortion” has created an idea that there is an “easy way” to deal with pregnancy and “make it go away.” She said that there is a stigma against being pregnant on college campuses, and many pregnant women may feel pressured to get an abortion to avoid this stigma.

“[A pregnant woman] would be alone because everyone would know that she had this way out, but she chose differently,” she said. “But it feels like this choice has become an expectation.”

Hagop Toghramadjian, MCAS ’17, spoke next, voicing his support for the resolution by quoting what Akosua Achampong, next year’s UGBC president and MCAS ’18, said during an interview with The Gavel:

“I value life, in a general sense, and I think everything else that I prioritize stems from that,” he read. “Because I value life, I value advocacy, and my religion and the way I grew up plays a lot into this … It’s along the lines of [thinking] every single person is of immeasurable importance and value, and everyone deserves to be a person.”

Toghramadjian then asked if the senators disagreed with the newly-elected UGBC president.

Achampong, who was not present at the meeting, texted Molly Newcomb, a senator and MCAS ’18, in response to being quoted in support of the resolution to clarify her position.

“I believe that’s a decision that individuals should make for themselves,” Achampong said in the text message. “I can’t in good conscience tell another person what to do with their own body. Pro life is a larger umbrella term and not specific enough to garner my unwavering support.”

Toghramadjian also asked senators to think about how many unplanned pregnancies there are at BC. Without producing a number, he speculated “dozens, hundreds a year.” He then asked the senators how many pregnant women were seen on campus, implying that many students at BC were experiencing unplanned pregnancies and receiving abortions in response.

“Do we think that every single one of these women who ended up pregnant without planning on it wanted to get an abortion?” he said. “Do you think that they all, their choice, was not to become a mother? Do we think that this stigma, that some of the women who just spoke had referenced, played into forcing them into making a decision to get an abortion?”

He said that it is shameful and “anti-choice” to think that the women he is referencing don’t deserve UGBC’s support and recognition.

Senators discussed and debated how recognizing pro-life activism and not pro-choice activism was problematic and would seem very one-sided to many students.

“I don’t think we should affirm one more than the other,” said Josh Frazier, MCAS ’19. “However, we have a pro-life club. We don’t see a pro-choice club … We need to reaffirm both sides of the issue because as a University, we haven’t.”

Drew Boland, CSOM ’19, spoke out in favor of the resolution, saying that simply recognizing a legitimate form of activism is important and does not de-legitimize the other side. He thinks that because many students at BC support this, UGBC should advocate for it.

“I just see Michael right now as being a voice within UGBC that I don’t think previously existed for the people who spoke right after him, and I think that’s an important voice that UGBC needs to listen to and advocate for,” said Boland.

The senators emphasized that their decision to vote down the resolution was not because they do not support pro-life activism, but rather because there needs to be more deliberation.

“This was one of the more split votes that I have seen in SA,” said Meredith McCaffrey, UGBC executive vice president and MCAS ’17.

Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor

February 27, 2017