WARREN SNELL | COPY EDITOR
Abortion is one of the most divisive topics currently in the fore of the public mind, as members of both sides have a tendency to get heated and label the other side with some none-too-kind phrases.
For the pro-choice camp, there have always been convenient shields, such as phrases like ‘choice’ and ‘women’s rights,’ that they claim in order to paint the pro-life movement in a negative light. When that isn’t enough, they can always fall back on the childish tactic of calling their opponents ‘anti-choice.’
For the pro-life camp, it has been a significantly more uphill battle. While they have their own buzzwords, ‘life’ being the operable one, they don’t seem to hold the same clout in the public mind, and it shows.
The pro-life movement has suffered under a bad reputation effectively since its conception, and in many cases, for a good reason. Abortion clinics all across the country are often surrounded by protesters, and sadly those protesters have a tendency to fall into the trap of allowing their anger to dictate the tone of their protests.
While it is perfectly understandable to be angered when innocents are being murdered or a racial community is being targeted, the pro-life community letting their anger get the better of them has done nothing but harm to the pro-life position. After all, it’s rather difficult to convince the person trying to make one of the most difficult decisions of their life that the person screaming at them from the sidewalk wants what is best for them.
All of that being the case, and understanding that the pro-choice camp has their own share of prejudices, one mustn’t allow the loudest members of a group to color one’s opinion of everyone else in that group. The silent majority is often a different animal altogether, as evidenced by Maria Oswalt and the Bama Students for Life.
Oswalt, senior, is the president of Bama Students for Life, and she has a vision for a pro-life movement grounded in compassion and education. The mission of BSFL, according to Oswalt, is to “create a culture accepting of all human life, from conception to death.”
“Our main objectives,” Oswalt said, “are education and outreach. The main way we educate is by tabling…when we table, we usually put up a tri-fold and hand out different pamphlets depending on what issue we’re focusing on.”
Additionally, the group will sometimes take polls on students’ beliefs regarding the moment life begins, as well as their reasons for holding their beliefs. “We’re really trying to spark more discussions,” Oswalt said.
With so many people harboring negative impressions of the pro-life movement, one of the main concerns of BSFL is keeping the discourse civil even when tensions rise. “We work with our members to make sure they are well versed in pro-life apologetics. One of the main things we emphasize is to tell [our members] ‘don’t be weird.’ We’re just here to have civil discussions,” Oswalt said.
On the other side of BSFL’s activities and services, they have a number of outreach programs listed on their website, bamastudentsforlife.org, chief among those being the Pregnant on Campus outreach which serves to connect women in need to on-campus resources.
In addition to their online resources, BSFL also takes its outreach efforts directly to the women who could benefit from it the most through an activity Oswalt calls ‘sidewalk counseling,’ since they are only allowed to stand on the public sidewalk outside the clinic.
“It’s usually on a Saturday morning, since that’s when most of us are available,” Oswalt said, “When we go to the clinic, we’re very particular about the message we present. We try to be as approachable as possible, and we carry signs that say ‘You are loved’ and ‘Here to listen, not to judge.’” Oswalt also mentioned that one of the goals is to redirect women to the pregnancy center located across the street.
When asked about recent reports of angry protesters, Oswalt said she had heard of a handful of community members being less than compassionate. “He is so focused on the [African American] community being targeted, that he forgets the women involved…We’ve tried to talk to him about it, but he isn’t part of our group. There is only so much we can do,” she said in regards to one man in particular,
“Our hope is that our presence there would serve as a sign for these women,” Oswalt said.
Many advocates of both sides of the argument would do well to remember to be compassionate to all those involved, and Oswalt and BSFL serve as an excellent reminder that no matter how great the affront to whatever it is you personally value, there is always room for compassion.