Where’s the women with the womb?

Elizabeth Sawka

Assistant Opinion Editor

A new poster in the tunnels posted by Campus Ministry as a Justice Intern initiative reads “Respect Life From Womb to Tomb” and features various bible verses and quotes.  These include but are not limited to The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy (which are Roman Catholic works of charity and penance), Mathew 25:35, Jeremiah 1:5, and a quote from Pope Francis: “we ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace.”  Some of the lives that are specifically mentioned (again, in addition to others) are homeless, abused, sick, and unborn.  

What is unsettling about this poster is that initially it leads you to believe that there is a focus on all lives between the womb and the tomb, but the women attached to the previously mentioned wombs are omitted from the poster.  The message this omission sends is that while the poster encourages that students need to respect the lives of the unborn, the life of the woman carrying the unborn is not a priority.   The poster also makes the assumption that lives of the unborn are not respected.  Supporting the freedom of choice does not inherently discredit the life of the unborn child because no supporter of choice takes abortion lightly.  The pro-choice argument has never been that the unborn life does not matter, but that the woman carrying this unborn child has full discretion when it comes to her own body.  If this justice initiative wants to promote the respect of all stages of life, why are the lives of pregnant women with choice being omitted?

There is an area in the Dugan tunnels dedicated to the Students for Life club which has pamphlets of resources for pregnant people, such as where to find pregnancy crisis counselors.  If the purpose of this poster is truly to promote the respect of all stages of life, then these resources should be near the “Respect Life from Womb to Tomb” poster.  

The poster reading “Respecting Life from Womb to Tomb” reminds me of the discomfort I feel while driving past the Planned Parenthood protestors on Main Street. I have seen many signs held by protestors over my years at Canisius, but one that sticks out in my memory read “fathers are missing out on fatherhood.”  This is one of the worst signs I’ve seen because it completely disregards the woman’s body autonomy and focuses on how the state of her uterus impacts her partner.   This sign not only excludes the rights of a woman over her own body, but also indicates that the protestor holding this sign feels they have the authority to presume the relationship between the partners and is making the assumption that all biological fathers are opposed to their partner’s abortion.   

I have also seen signs that give me the smallest spark of hope.  I have seen a signs that reads “not here to judge, just to educate” and “adoption is a loving option.”  These signs acknowledge that a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy has a difficult decision to make and these signs offer information for her.   These signs do not disregard her body autonomy or make presumptions about her relationship with the other parent of the unborn child.  I do not think any person utilizing Planned Parenthood deserves to pass protestors, but at least these signs address the patients as human beings with choices.   

My discomfort with the presence of these protestors is also because I wonder how protestors know that the women walking inside are all pregnant and seeking an abortion.   Some pregnant clients are seeking sonograms or other prenatal care.  Other women are seeking health services such as STD tests or cancer screening.  Before the pregnant women are physically showing their pregnancy, the protestors cannot tell the difference between these women.  I cannot imagine how it feels to seek medical care for your unborn child and have to walk past a sign accusing you of denying fatherhood to your child’s father. Though the adoption sign and the sign about a desire to educate are better than ones shaming people seeking abortions,the issue is that most women passing those protestors are not getting abortions.   

According to a Washington Post article from August 2015, three percent of planned parenthood clients utilized abortion services.  97% of clients used a variety of other services including STD testing, pregnancy counselors and cancer screening.  My Facebook newsfeed has been clogged with articles about how defunding planned parenthood is defunding women’s health care and this is why.  The majority of clients who seek health services at Planned Parenthood are taking care of their bodies, ensuring their longevity.  

When I leave campus and go exploring in Buffalo I am aware that my city includes perfect strangers who feel entitled to inquire to the state of my uterus.  On campus I should not feel such attacks as this.  I respect the pro-life position and I do not mean to attack them in the least.  I am asking that material posted encouraging students to become educated when faced with an unplanned pregnancy be first and foremost respectful.  I am aware that there is a potential for students to feel uncomfortable that Unity hosts an annual Gender Bender and that Sigma Tau Delta hosted the first Gender and Sexuality Reading, but these events celebrate diversity rather than shame homophobic or transphobic individuals.  

I came to Canisius because I felt welcomed at open house events and I was pleased to find that discussions of diversity were incorporated into during Orientation training.  Our college makes a conscious effort to make students of all backgrounds and affiliations feel welcome, but this poster was a poor representation of our campus climate.

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