Oct 052008
Authors: Sean Reed

Warning: graphic images ahead.

Last week, Justice for All, an organization whose mission is “to train thousands who will help make abortion unthinkable for millions, one person, one conversation at a time,” made their annual stop at the Plaza to “educate” the student body about what they call the “American Unborn Genocide.”

Their method of choice, as it is every year, was the use of three large billboards plastered from top to bottom with images of unborn fetuses alongside supposed facts about abortion in America, all intended to lead students to the conclusion that a) abortion is murder and b) the widespread use of the procedure is comparable to various genocides that have occurred historically.

As could be expected, not all students appreciated the graphic disturbing images that greeted them as they trounced on to their human development and family studies classes. Some of you may have noticed their complaints in the Collegian’s RamTalk section.

As editorials editor, I found my e-mail inbox flooded with upset e-mails (all of which were too long to print) criticizing the Event Planning Office or the Lory Student Center for allowing the protest. One group of students went even further and staged a sit in protest at 7 a.m. Wednesday to prevent the group from setting up.

While you have to admire their style, these folks have it all wrong.

The fact of the matter is, no matter how reprehensible you may find the giant images that were displayed last week, JFA had every right to show them.

Free speech — something near and dear to all of our hearts here at Student Media — doesn’t just cover fun things like dirty words and bashing John McCain, it covers giant spaghetti photos of aborted fetuses, too.

These folks, too, held their protest the right way — at least by CSU standards. They found a student organization to sponsor them, legitimating their presence on the Plaza, and even put signs a good distance from the billboards warning those more sensitive to graphic photos that their sensibilities were about to be violated.

Rather than quibbling over their obvious right to be there, people should have focused on the bigger issue — the message.

Many of the claims made by this organization on its gigantic billboards were incredibly misinformed, if not purposely misleading.

The biggest of these is the claim that abortion can be linked to breast cancer, which is a popular claim in the pro-life circles. And, of course, there are studies that support this.

The problem, of course, is that other, better-executed studies, disagree with the results. According to the National Cancer Institute Web site, the vast majority of studies that support the abortion-breast cancer link were case-control studies in which two groups composed of women with breast cancer and another, without, were asked a variety of questions about their reproductive history.

The problem with this is, that under different sets of circumstances, different groups may be more or less willing to be completely honest about their histories. This is called recall bias.

According to the NCI, in these studies, women with breast cancer would be more likely to divulge past abortions than those who do not because they stand more to gain from their honesty — a cause for their condition.

This, they said, explains the disconnect between the results of these studies and others where recall bias is not an issue.

Their biggest claim, though, is that abortion in America can be likened to genocide. And I guess this just depends on when you think life begins: conception, or birth.

This kind of reasoning, of course, leaves out the potential rhetorical victims of the “Masturbation Holocaust.”

How many lives do you think are lost in a single day to sticky tissues left in gas station restrooms in the U.S.? Are billboards decrying pocket pool the next step?

These questions, of course, are absurd, but really, there is no more compelling argument to support that life begins at conception or birth than there is to support that it begins with the biological processes that create sperm or eggs.

Really, all this debate boils down to is a difference in opinion, which is why JFA-style tactics don’t work.

What we need is open and honest discussion, not scare tactics and misinformation. Unfortunately, in this case, what we need is what we will likely never have. And so the debate rages on.

Editorials Editor Sean Reed is a senior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegain.com.

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