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Abortion debate escalates

By Andrea Lamberti

and Mauricio Roman

Tensions are escalating on the abortion issue, as evidenced by the burning of an MIT Pro-Life drop poster last Thursday night. Chalk graffiti saying "Choice" has appeared on the sandstone walls of the MIT main building. Both MIT Pro-Life and the MIT Association for Women Students, which holds a pro-choice position, are actively campaigning for their views in anticipation of the March for Women's Lives in Washington, DC, this Sunday.

The march is an attempt to influence the Supreme Court decisions on three key cases that it will consider this term, as well as to exert pressure on Congress and the White House to keep abortion legal and funded. On July 3 the Supreme Court ruled that federal money could not be used to support abortions and granted the states more regulatory powers over abortion. Pro-choice advocates feel that reproductive rights in the United States will be in serious jeopardy when the Supreme Court considers these cases.

On campus, AWS is actively working toward the march while MIT Pro-Life organized Abortion Awareness Week beginning Oct. 30. Its purpose was to inform the MIT community about the Pro-Life ethic and educate it on some basic facts about abortion. Pro-Life tried to engage AWS in a forum on abortion that took place last Thursday, but AWS declined the offer.

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Pro-Life poster set on fire

An MIT Pro-Life drop poster for Abortion Awareness Week was set on fire in Lobby 7 last Thursday night. John Welch '92 was about to cross Massachusetts Avenue with friends when they spotted the flames from across the street. Welch saw that the poster had become "a big pillar of flames" and ran into Lobby 7. When they got inside, the lower half of the poster, still burning, fell to the ground. Welch put out the fire by stamping on the poster and pulling it away from the wooden newsstands. The fire on the other half of the poster, still hanging from the top balcony, went out by itself. Welch said that it looked like the fire had been started from the second floor balcony because the flames were burning from the middle.

Pro-Life proposed an investigation of the incident to the Campus Police, according to Pro-Life vice president Juan Latasa '91. Campus Police Chief Anne P. Glavin had no comment on the nature of the investigation, which is being pursued by the Special Services Division of the Campus Police.

Pro-Life qualified the action as irresponsible and dangerous, according to Latasa. Michelle Bush '91, president of the MIT Association for Women Students, repudiated the burning of the poster. "I found it very upsetting. I feel it reflects poorly on the pro-choice movement," she said. Bush said that people should have access to both sides of an issue like abortion.

Pro-Life forum

Four representatives of pro-life regional movements spoke last Thursday at a forum sponsored by MIT Pro-Life: Kelly Jefferson of Feminists for Life; Ruth Pakaluk of Massachusetts Citizens for Life; Dr. Mildred Jefferson,

co-founder of National Right to Life; and Cheryl Augustine of Women Exploited by Abortion.

Pakaluk stressed that the pro-life position represents a value system consistent with Judeo-Christian tradition. It regards the fetus as alive and human, therefore possessing the inalienable right to life. Another school of thought regards human life as not sufficiently defined by biological terms and requires other qualities to have value, she said. However, "there are no real biological changes when the baby comes out of the uterus," she added.

There is also a widespread misconception that abortions are practiced early in pregnancy when the fetus is small, Pakaluk said. In fact, ten percent of the 1.5 million annual abortions in the United States happen after the 13th week after conception -- in some cases, if born prematurely the baby could be kept alive. Abortions in the first six weeks after conception are very rare, she added.

Pakaluk questioned why women seek abortion. According to a study, she said, abortions resulting from rape, incest, and threat to a woman's life represent only three percent of the total number of abortions. The study says that a woman's main motivations for abortion are concern that having a baby will change her life, inability to afford taking care of a baby, or already having all the children she wants.

Kelly Jefferson spoke about feminism and the pro-life movement. She holds the view that abortion, and the perceived need for it, validate the patriarchal view that women are inferior to men. She believes that abortion liberates men, not women, because it surrenders single women to pregnancy discrimination, and allows men to escape responsibility for their sexual behavior. By settling for abortion rather than working for the social changes that would allow a woman to simultaneously support children and career, pro-abortion feminists have agreed to participate in a man's world on male terms, she said. Thus the pro-choice position is inconsistent, she added, because it tries to secure rights by oppression.

Dr. Mildred Jefferson asserted that abortion leads to alienation. "If a woman can carry in her something that is not human, then she must not be human," she said. Abortion cuts the human connection between the woman and the child, she added; if a woman negates the bonds to her child, she denies the connection to the larger human family. Augustine from WEBA said that many young women have to face the psychological consequences of an abortion when they do have their first child, usually five to seven years later. In Augustine's case, she began to feel a deep remorse a few years after her own abortion and became prone to drinking.

Dr. Jefferson also said that the debate on choice has nothing to do with abortion; "choice" is merely an advertising slogan that sells as a right to abortion. The notion that abortion equals freedom leads to confused women, she claimed. However, society should not be concerned with confused women, but "with women willing to confuse others and induce people to make decisions with consequences they will not pay," she added. Finally, she said that abortion is an acquiescence that the majority of society will not tolerate.