GU Right to Life’s Symbolic Approach Hardly Seems Intrusive

By Ian A. Palko

Well, Elian’s going back to Cuba. I could write on ad nauseam, unfortunately we are already at that point. The whole issue surrounding the little boy reminded me, though, of an issue recently addressed in a Letter to the Editor concerning the Georgetown University Right to Life’s recent flag display on Copley Lawn (“Pro-Life Flag Display Offends Sophomore,” The Hoya , April 7, p. 2).

I guess it was the little boy, Elian, which reminded me of a young child and the issue of abortion, though somewhat unrelated to his situation, and then those issues addressed in the letter.

Before I attend to these issues though, I extend my apologies to those people who I might offend, because it is not my intention to do so.

I agree whole-heartedly with the author when she said, “the abortion issue is one of the more controversial debates of our generation. It does not stop at Healy Gates.” Nor should it, I believe.

The debate itself is a difficult one, with both sides advocating their views, many times without truly considering what the other side is saying, which I think is what the flag display was truly about.

The close to 4,000 flags placed on the lawn that Thursday morning represented nothing more than the truth, that in the U.S., on average, 3,758 abortions take place on a daily basis. I would hardly think the intention of the display was to offend, as the letter’s author said, shove their views, in the face of others or reduce the “loss of ‘life’ to bright little plastic flags.”

I am adamantly pro-life, but I respect others who disagree. I absolutely respect that people have the right to be offended at the display and my views, just as I have the right to be offended when abortion is condoned.

The display, above all, was to serve as a visible representation of the truth, which is what all the flags represented. If you are a pro-choice advocate, then consider the flags as a representation of one choice, one difficult choice, which has significantly affected the life of a woman and possibly others. The display served as a method for getting people to think, and if that is all people do when they see the flags, then people do not become entrenched in their views and can consider exactly why they believe what they do, whether they are pro-choice or pro-life. The flags can open their minds.

In regard to intrusiveness, this demonstration, though somewhat unavoidable, was not intrusive. To my understanding, the group requested Copley Lawn because it was a central location and flags and brick don’t mix too well, but beyond that, there were not signs showing graphic pictures of aborted children or anything shoving the views of the group upon those who passed by. The sole table at the one end of the walk with a GU Right to Life banner on it was the only indication, except the small fliers, that the flags were even placed by pro-lifers. If anyone came to the table, they could speak with the people there, but one could easily walk by, as many people did, and never be accosted by or even be forced to speak to a pro-life advocate – quite “civil and non-intrusive” tactics.

That reminds me of the beginning of the year, when H*yas for Choice had a table in Red Square. Their “non-intrusive” tactics ended when a condom, purposefully tossed by someone staffing the table, hit one of my friends. If the tactics used by Right to Life were “intrusive,” perhaps many of the ways groups on this campus communicate needs to change. The issue, though, is not about these groups but about the display.

The author also writes about the appropriateness of reminding women who have had an abortion about the abortion, through the display. I trust that, again, the issue boils down to thinking. The display made people think. Would not a woman, who has made the difficult decision to have an abortion, also want anyone who was considering abortion to think hard before making a decision? I would hope people would not want to make such a difficult choice without considering what they are doing.

So, while I agree anyone has the right to be offended by the display, perhaps people should consider exactly what the display’s intention was, not what first comes to mind. The display was a representation of the truth, a representation of the 3,758 abortions per day, and if the truth is offensive . well, perhaps we will leave it at that.

Ian A. Palko is a freshman in the McDonough School of Business and features editor of The Hoya.

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