Giving Credence to a Memorial

*Members of Stanford Students for Life (SSFL) respond to a *Stanford Daily *article portraying the annual *Roe v. Wade memorial as a “biased” and “garish display.”

In a February 1st Stanford Daily article entitled, “Sex Talks with the Tree: A Gray Area,” the Intermission Staff attempts to illustrate the pro-choice justification that “abortions do not exist in vacuums.” The article—part of a regular Daily column which explores various aspects of student sexuality—came on the heels of****the 40th anniversary of *Roe *v. Wade, a milestone which triggered various

pro-life and pro-choice student responses.  Arguably the most visible of such responses was the *Roe *v. *Wade *Memorial, in which we, members of Stanford Students for Life (SSFL), placed 500 roses in White Plaza to commemorate the 50 million lives that have been lost to abortion since the landmark 1973 decision.

The article itself juxtaposes two truly difficult situations: the first in which the author’s own parents decided not to abort her own baby sister despite serious potential developmental complications and, second, a student-interviewee’s decision to terminate an unwanted pregnancy given her “[inadequate preparation] for motherhood.” The Intermission Staff subsequently argues that such difficult situations do not have black and white solutions, as pro-life groups such as SSFL allegedly believe.

First of all, it must be made very clear that no one thinks that either situation is easy, regardless of personal experience.  Consider the following factors put forth by the Daily article: financial trouble, inadequate access to healthcare, unexpected timing. No one would call these insignificant hardships.

Yet there is a central belief of the pro-life movement that many pro-choice advocates seem only to hear but never understand: human life begins at conception. Given this stance, it follows that pro-life advocates believe that****a fetus is a person, with a right to life under the law. It is therefore not insensitivity, a self-righteous desire to judge, nor a lack of personal experience that lead groups like SSFL to maintain its pro-life position despite what are undeniably difficult situations.
On the contrary, SSFL is motivated by a persevering desire to affirm the dignity of human life at all stages, with a *full realization *that life’s challenges may not always make such affirmation easy. For us, it is not a question of making other students feel judged and singled out, but a profound question of justice.  If what develops in the womb is a person (and SSFL believes it is), a lack of money, poor timing, and inadequate resources simply do not warrant the death of this innocent person.

The *Daily *article’s implicit accusation that the pro-life position over-simplifies a “gray area” further holds no weight when one considers that one of our most important goals is to help women facing these difficult decisions. There are approximately 3,000 adoption agencies in the U.S., many with long waiting lines of parents ready and willing to raise a child. There are also about 2,200 crisis pregnancy centers across the country that are devoted to housing, feeding, and caring for mother and child during this tough time. Indeed, we volunteer at and support a local crisis pregnancy center on a regular basis.

Finally, consider the first situation from the Daily article itself, the one in which the author describes the circumstances surrounding the birth of her sister.  What would the author say about the nature of her sister before birth? Was she a person? Was she just a  collection of cells? Was there a point at which she became a person while in the womb? If she had been aborted, would her sister have been a person whose life was taken away, or merely an eliminated lump of cells?

The pro-life position maintains that her sister would have been killed. With this in mind, perhaps it is not just a cruel whim of such students to display a memorial mourning the deaths of over 50 million unborn children since 1973. Perhaps in addition to the potential financial, physical, and temporal burdens that come with every pregnancy, the growing life of an unborn child should also be taken very seriously.  The memorial—and SSFL’s mission in general—will thus continue to pose the difficult yet necessary question to the university at large: if what develops in the womb really is human life, does abortion continue to be such a “gray area”?

*You can learn more about SSFL’s understanding of the pro-life position at

Editorial Board: A Call to Educated, More Consistent Student Activism
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