What about rape?

By Elizabeth Sawka

Assistant Opinion Editor

The tunnels beneath Dugan have always had a space for Students for Life, the pro-life student organization, to display materials advocating for their club.   At the time of this writing, the display has a few quotes explaining the feminist for life stance, which may sound contradictory to some.  These quotes are from women explaining why they are pro-life and that they believe that abortion being legal is a sign that there is still work to be done in the Women’s Movement. Some quotes were from Serrin Foster, who is the creator of the Women Deserve Better Than Abortion Campaign. Foster has also led Feminists For Life since 1994.    

One of the quotes posted from Foster addresses abortions of a pregnancy that is a result of rape and it reads “do not do to your baby what that guy did to you.”  I have so many problems with this quote. This quote demonizes victims of rape that chose to have an abortion.  As an outsider who has never been pregnant or raped, I think it’s fair to say that any woman in this situation needs support.  This display has a sign that reads “pro-life and pro-woman go hand-in-hand,” but this quote is inherently anti-women.  

On the most basic level, this is telling a victim of rape that she is a rapist. Read that again: this is telling a victim that she is a rapist. A person whose body was violated in a very personal way is being told that she is the same as the man who raped her.  I do not understand why  shaming women for having body autonomy is ever involved in a civilized conversation, but this quote reflects this very idea.  Rather than sending a message of support to victims of rape, this tells victims that even after their attack they will be judged for taking control over their bodies.  With the posters about the Student Sexual Bill of Rights around campus and “It Happened Here,” a film about the reality of being a rape victim on a college campus, I would think that triggering language like this would not be displayed at Canisius.  

Students for Life club has every right to publicize what their club stands for, and I don’t believe that this quote fits with what their club’s missions statement, which is printed on the display: “we seek to protect human life from conception to natural death through education and service.”  I understand that I attend a Jesuit institution, but I don’t believe that being a Jesuit institution automatically justifies having a pro-life organization. Our Catholic, Jesuit identity is not always and should not always be a determinant of what types of organizations we have. I wouldn’t say that we need the College Democrats because we’re a Jesuit institution. These clubs are students gathering to find community through their political affiliation, and as a school that advocates for self-reflection and self-awareness, we should be challenging our students.  Students should not only have an awareness of their own political and ideological values, but they should understand the other side.  This quote does not educate anyone and it is a disservice to victims of rape.  This club’s mission statement is not to shame people who have abortions, but this quote does just that.

On a personal level, I do not believe it is my right to tell another person with a uterus what they are or are not allowed to do with their uterus. What I do with my uterus and what other uterus owners do with theirs doesn’t matter—you do you. The pro-choice movement is not called pro-abortion because it is not about jumping to the decision to abort.  It is about believing in choice.  It is about advocating for all options without passing judgement on any one choice.  I know members of the pro-life movement disagree with me on this, and I’m not trying to tell pro-life Griffs to abandon their stance on abortion, but I am telling you that messages like this do not help you. I’m writing this because I cannot believe that pro-life Griffs support this idea.  I understand that pro-life Griffs do not believe that conception as a result of rape should be aborted.  But that doesn’t inherently mean that you believe a victim of rape deserves to be called a rapist.  I can’t believe that pro-life  Griffs believe that woman is equivalent to a rapist.

I recognize that what this quote addresses is one of many ideological differences between the pro-choice and pro-life movements.  As a creative writing major, words are very important to me.  The language used to disagree with abortions after rape does not have to demean the victim.  To equate a victim to their attacker is disrespectful and does nothing to sway people on the fence to the pro-life side of the argument.  Labeling a victim as a rapist is, in my mind, no better than blaming the victim for being raped in the first place.  

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