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The Blue & Gray Press | August 17, 2019

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LETTER: Sidewalk chalk abortion debate counters claims that students have open minds

Dear Editor,

Last week members of Students for Life spent time writing pro-life messages in chalk around campus. The next day many of them had been written over or erased.

For a community that claims to be as open-minded as UMW, it was disappointing to see that we weren’t afforded the same respect as other campus groups that use similar methods.

Why do pro-choice members of our Mary Washington community feel the need to vandalize pro-life messages on campus walk? Why do they feel the need to pull down pro-life flyers or flyers for crisis pregnancy centers that offer women alternatives to abortion, an activity that has been going on for several years?

Doesn’t pro-choice mean being open to all choices, not just the ones you believe in? Some “pro-choice” students here on our campus have decided that ignorance is better than information.

Calm and rational debate is possible, even when it comes to a heated issue such as abortion. I’m sure that most pro-choice students on campus are against this pro-silence policy.

Women and men should have all the information available to them. If the pro-choice movement is so confident that they are right, then why do they continuously fight laws that oblige women to become informed about the fetus (unborn child) inside of them?

Some states are pro-women enough to require that women view ultrasounds or read information packets that allow them to make an informed decision. What is so bad about that?

Even President Obama, a proponent of abortion on demand, says that a decrease in abortions is desirable and that open and civil dialogue is important.

Though results are conflicting, some studies show that up to 80 percent of women who view an ultrasound keep their baby. If what we are striving for is a decrease in abortions, why not fully inform women?

I look forward to the day when all members on both sides of the debate can be civil, and information can be shared fully.

Michael Gardner,
Class of 2011
Vice President of Students for Life


  1. Arturo

    Your chalk “messages” left this campus in shards…

  2. David N.

    Bravo, Michael! I was also disappointed by the reaction on campus. If we’re to be committed to the idea of free speech, then we shouldn’t casually silence others, even if we disagree with them.

    Arturo, what do you mean “in shards”? The snow has washed it all away. It’s chalk — it doesn’t last long. As far as public speech goes, it’s pretty unintrusive.

    Yesterday, I couldn’t read any of the pro-life messages written on the ground any longer, but I could still read the “Keep Religion (AKA Christianity) out of politics!” that was written on the wall near the fountain. No one got rid of that message scribbled with chalk. It seems like the least we could all do is tolerate what we all have to say, within reason, rather than engaging in petty games of “Let’s see who can go scuff up sidewalk chalk the fastest!” We’re better than that.

  3. Anonymous

    Well-written piece, Mike. That being said, I hope you meant “shared” not “shard.”

    Let’s all keep the following in mind:
    “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

    – Evelyn Beatrice Hall, as Stephen G. Tallentyre

  4. Katie

    I’m not sure “Abortion stops a beating heart” and “women deserve better” are civil sharing of thoughtful opinions. I know friends of my who were offended felt that way because they empathized with any women on campus who have had abortions, and would feel harassed by such messages and without opportunity to respond.

    Chalking slogans isn’t “calm and rational debate” when there’s no chance for discussion, or room for nuance on such a complicated issue.

    (Also, as someone who is all for civil and thoughtful debate about abortion, I thought it was kind of fun to watch the chalking unfold. Chalk is not the right forum for civil discussion, but there were some clever responses!)

  5. Wilberto

    Abortion is a touchy subject that I hardly want to be reminded of on the way to lunch.

    Additionally, I doubt your sidewalk chalk really changed changed anyone’s already formed opinions on the abortion debate.

    Overall, I thought the ensuing chalk-war was childish and unnecessary, for those on both sides – although I do agree with whoever chalked the opinion of “pro-mustache”.

  6. Ben

    Agreeing with Willberto on my first point here: your expression, however “well-intentioned” you may claim it to have been, was really nothing more than a way of harassing women. The fact that you claim to see things from a “pro-women” standpoint is sickening, and I don’t think you’ve thought it out all that well.

    I agree crossing it out wasn’t the most mature way to go about it. But, the fact that “pro-lifers” generally come from the most closed-minded groups of people doesn’t help your whole “information” rant. People face difficult decisions, and the sort of “information” you’re offering is only the kind that serves to emotionally traumatize the people who have to make that choice.

    Obviously you can’t see that perspective. Neither can I, but at least I’m willing to admit it instead of purporting to speak on what I think is “best for women,” which is really what you seem to want to do. It’s funny to me that you probably can’t see how misogynistic you’re being here. It’s also very saddening.

  7. Laura

    For someone accusing somebody else of being closed-minded, it is interesting to me that you are calling someone’s opinion ‘mysogynistic’ simply because you happen to believe that you are right. There is no need for accusations or name calling.

  8. Jillian-Rose

    This was a great article. UMW students do always claim to be open-minded, but it seems they are usually only open-minded to what they believe, not necessarily all points of view. There is absoultly nothing wrong with wanting to inform women of the facts and other options, before they opt to have an abortion.

  9. Real misogyny is thinking that keeping women uninformed is somehow to their benefit. “Pro-choice” people seem to believe that “choice” is only made best in an information vacuum. thus their great anger at free speech.
    So much for President Obama’s “civil discourse”.
    As far as these messages harassing women, how? If abortion is such a blessed event, why would a woman feel badly? Oh- because the truth is that abortion is a traumatic experience? Did any of the messages imply something bad about women themselves? I often find it interesting when men seem to speak the loudest about the “right to choose.” If their girlfriend made a choice to have a child, I wonder if they would support that choice as well. I have never seen a woman choose abortion when the father supported having the child and the relationship between the two was a healthy one (free of physical or other abuse, etc.)

  10. Kate

    The messages didn’t give any chance to be opposed in any way, shape, or form. If someone had said “meet at such and such a place at such and such a date”, maybe it would’ve been better. But the fact that I had to see those messages just walking to my dorm was disgusting. Most of these pro-lifers seem to be men, which is despicable to begin with, since I feel men really shouldn’t have the bigger voice in women’s issues. Second, there could’ve been women on campus who had been raped, impregnated, and chose to have an abortion and was then slammed with these messages. How do you think that woman might have felt? The people who did this really didn’t think the consequences through at all. There’s a lot more I could say on the issue, but this pretty much sums it up.

  11. visceralrebellion

    Universities are by far the least tolerant of ideas that don’t neatly fall into prepackaged, preapproved liberal litanies. After four years I decided that real thought, real debate occurs far from the hallowed halls of academe. Sad.

  12. Laura

    Yes Kate, it is despicable that men have an opinion on the matter. They shouldn’t have any input on abortion. Abortion certainly only affects women. (Please take note of the sarcasm.)

    And if you have a problem seeing other people’s opinions, let alone facts, then living on a college campus or even attending classes on one might not be the best environment for you. If you prefer to only be surrounded by people that share your opinion, public places are really risky.

  13. Carly

    “Most of these pro-lifers seem to be men, which is despicable to begin with, since I feel men really shouldn’t have the bigger voice in women’s issues.”

    I’m a woman, I am pro-life, and I am not an aberration.

  14. Lauren

    Can we stop calling them “pro-life” and just agree that people who are against a women’s right to choose are “anti-choice?”

  15. Mike

    Lauren, actually the best terminology is pro-abortion and anti-abortion. Also if you want to go with anti- choice, we should go with anti-life as well.

  16. Lauren

    Yup, pro-abortion right here! Abortions for everyone! Force women to have abortions like you want to force them to have babies!

  17. Peter

    If women who have had abortions feel regret upon seeing these signs, aren’t they victims too of the abortion agenda? Shouldn’t their guilt speak volumes?

    Pro-Life IS Pro-Woman. Just look at the cold, hard facts the pro-abortion camp tries to cover up and ignorantly deny. Abortion-breast cancer links being the foremost “woman’s issue” that conveniently gets glossed over.

  18. Allie

    There is no real breast cancer link- sorry. When a woman is pregnant, she produces hormones that make her two times less likely to get breast cancer. Having the abortion simply erases that benefit, it doesn’t make it the inverse. Silly little boy!

  19. Allie
  20. Rachael

    The main point is, Mike, that you guys decided to write obnoxious messages in chalk all over campus.

    As a tour guide, it is pretty annoying when ANY GROUP writes messages on campus in chalk. Messages under the overhead on campus walk cannot be erased by rainwater, since rain doesn’t hit them.

    I really hate when chalk is anywhere on campus. It makes our beautiful campus look trashy, and it is actually against SCHOOL POLICY to use chalk on the brickwork.

  21. ks

    Here’s a thought: when’s the last time you saw pro-abortion messages scribbled around a campus in chalk? Or saw pro-abortion people protesting medical providers and harassing people who chose to have children?
    There’s no justifiable reason to blast your own personal opinion, whichever it is, about a sensitive topic to people who can’t avoid it. If you want to discuss sensitive issues, extend an invitation. Let people decide whether they want to hear it or not. Abortion, Religion, and a number of other topics are personal and can be offensive. If you’re going to discss them, do it in a civilized manner appropriate to the nature of the topic. Have a forum, have an open-house, start a blog; the people who disagree can ignore you much easier than if you offend their eyes and desecrate their campus.