“Penn For Life” Off to Controversial Start

“Virtually one opinion goes unrivaled on campus when it comes to abortion,” said Wharton sophomore Eric Hoover. Certainly not his point of view.

Citing the fact that there are no “currently active” pro-life groups at Penn, Hoover, with support from Students for Life of America, is beginning an organization on campus to “give pro-life students a voice in the community.”

Last Wednesday, Hoover publically announced his intentions on the Class of 2019 Facebook page, seeking recruits for the organization.

A large number of students reacted strongly to the post, commenting that it was “a bad idea” and that, as a man, Hoover should not address the issue of abortion. Hoover believed the response is evidence of hostile attitudes towards pro-life students on campus, citing a satirical Facebook post by College sophomore, Lea Eisenstein.

In her post, she declared that she was starting “a Students for Forced Sterilization of Misogynists organization” at Penn to “sterilize chauvinist pigs” and protect “misogynists from thinking that they are entitled to ownership over other people’s bodies.”

“Because [Hoover’s post] struck me mostly as absurd” Eisenstein told The Statesman, “I literally copied and pasted his statement into the textbox and then just replaced it with the opposite words” creating an advertisement for an organization about “a male reproductive rights issue.”

The post was taken down after a few hours, but not before it had garnered over 45 likes. Eisenstein stated that she did not remove the post herself, indicating that the administrators of the Class of 2019 Facebook page censored her satire.  

Another student commented on Hoover’s post: “No uterus, no opinion,” which garnered over a hundred likes. Other comments, that were also popular, criticized the community for what they saw as a vitriolic or dismissive response to Hoover.

Wharton sophomore Aleksandra Golos, a personal friend of Hoover’s, expressed her support for his post, stating that his choice to start a pro-life group came from “a place of genuine compassion and empathy,” not a desire for controversy.  She considered it “stupid” to argue that Mr. Hoover’s gender invalidated his opinion.  “Anyone can have an opinion on anything,” she said, “and silencing people in this way only prevents having an open, well-rounded discussion.”  She, like Hoover, is pro-life.

Eisenstein argued, however, that Eric Hoover “is an adolescent boy who has literally never had a pregnancy scare” or thought seriously about carrying a child to term.  From that position, she stated, he doesn’t “have the experience or the context or the necessary information to impose laws or rules.”

When faced with the question, Hoover did not claim to understand the “incredibly difficult circumstances” women may find themselves in.  “It is absolutely 100 percent true that I am not in the place of the woman,” Hoover said, “but the proponents of abortion are also not in the place of the child. So the question is: Is the child a human being, and does that human being have rights?”  If so, Hoover argued, we should be as concerned about “putting ourselves in the child’s shoes” as we are about empathizing with pregnant women in difficult circumstances.

While scientifically it is uncontroversial that fetuses are human, Hoover’s question about human rights may receive different answers. “I don’t think that [fetuses] become human being[s] until they are born,” Eisenstein said, confirming that she was referring to the fetus’s “personhood” rather than its biological humanity.  While “a lot of people” try to “twist” the fact that prematurely born children can survive, she doesn’t “buy” it, adding “I know that they do survive, but… they’re literally not fully developed into a person.”  Doctors and nurses might keep the child alive, but it wasn’t really “viable” when it came to independent persistence.

Eisenstein made clear that she was not “in any way” opposed to saving prematurely born babies. Her point was simply that arguments from people like Hoover are often “twisted around and manipulated to make it seem much more decisive and much less complex than it really is.”

Eisenstein also emphasized that when it came to considering policy it was necessary to “keep in mind the long history of abortion, how it’s always been a thing… and when that right is taken away” there are always negative consequences, including back-alley botched abortions.

Sherry Huang, a post-baccalaureate student, agreed that, taking into account the rights of the mother, the question “can be tricky.”  “These two lives,” she said, “are connected – the life of the baby and the life of the mother… but I do not think it is an option to kill someone to make someone else’s life better.” She illustrated her point with the hypothetical scenario in which two adults might be connected in such a way that the quality of life of the one was negatively affected by the presence of the other. It would be wrong, she argued, to actively kill one conjoined twin for the mere convenience of her sister.

Based on her premise that personhood begins at conception, Huang argued that abortion was only reasonable if the baby “does very bad harm to the mother’s body.”  In that case, Ms. Huang argued, “getting an abortion” could be seen as necessary – almost like “self-defense.” Huang thought that a Penn for Life group on campus would be “a good idea.”

Eisenstein remained more skeptical: “If you’re going to have a pro-life club – especially with a bunch of adolescent men – go ahead and sit in a room and decide not to have abortions, but don’t try to enact legislation or try to impose your ideas on women who are actually going through the experience that you will never have to go through.”

Despite the controversy garnered by his Facebook post, Hoover plans to hold the pro-life group’s first meeting within a week.

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