Saint Mary’s students react to proposed pro-woman, pro-choice club
Maeve Filbin | Wednesday, October 9, 2019
In an Oct. 1 post to the Saint Mary’s College Class of 2021 Facebook page, a student posed this question: “If someone made a pro-woman/pro-choice club, would you become a member?” Since then, 29 students have voted in support of joining the proposed group, and nine have voted against membership.
Junior Rebecca Ward voted in favor of joining a future pro-woman, pro-choice club, but said in a Facebook comment that she did not think the group would be allowed to operate on a Catholic campus.
“I would love to have [a pro-choice club], but I’ve heard from a friend that in the past it’s been proposed and denied [because] this is a Catholic college,” she said in the comment.
Ward said she’s always felt passionate about starting a pro-choice group at Saint Mary’s since her freshman year, but did not pursue creating an official club after learning about a past failed attempt made by another student.
“I remember, although not super clearly, my freshman year an upperclassman friend told me that she had inquired about starting a pro-choice club but had been told that she would not be allowed,” Ward said in an email. ”Obviously, this wasn’t my own experience so I can’t say for sure if it’s true.”
Tena Johnson, coordinator of student organizations, said such a club has never existed at the College.
“To the best of my knowledge, no student has ever tried to start a pro-choice club here at Saint Mary’s College,” Johnson said in an email.
Ward said the pro-choice movement doesn’t necessarily have to be considered to be in opposition to the views of the Catholic Church.
“While some people who are pro-choice do support the right to abortion, there is of course a diversity of opinions as there are in any group of people,” Ward said. “There are many pro-choice individuals who don’t personally support abortion, but support people’s right to make choices for themselves, so I don’t necessarily think that a pro-choice club would be against the teachings of the Church or against the interests of the College.”
As an academic institution that welcomes students and staff of all backgrounds, Saint Mary’s should not discourage the expression of views outside of Catholic doctrine, Ward said.
“I believe that because Saint Mary’s advertises itself as a place that welcomes everyone despite being a Catholic college, it has at least some responsibility to allow its students to assemble to represent their viewpoints, even if they could be in opposition to the teachings of the Church,” she said. “I also think it’s important to point out that College Democrats could also be seen as having views in opposition to the church — pro-choice opinions being one such view for some members, but not all — and yet it was approved as a club and continues to run today.”
Junior Chido Moyo said she would join the pro-woman, pro-choice group because she thinks Saint Mary’s, which in the past has hosted pro-life groups such as Belles for Life, could benefit from introducing a new perspective on the issue and providing students with the opportunity to serve women within the greater South Bend community.
“I think that Saint Mary’s has a lot to offer for the pro-life clubs, which include great activities and programs,” Moyo said in an email. “However, having a pro-choice/women club would help the school be more open to the students who are not necessarily pro-life. My hope for this club is that students are able to empower themselves through volunteer work at local shelters for single mothers/women.”
Junior Emily Emerson voted against joining the proposed club, but said she believes a pro-choice group should have a place on campus.
“We try to have everyone represented on campus and clubs are no different,” Emerson said in an email. “However, I would not be a part of this club mainly because I am pro-life. I do not agree with the view that abortion should be readily available for just any reason. I believe that it must be a special circumstance for a baby to be killed.”
Emerson said she is uncomfortable with the idea of framing the proposed pro-choice club as “pro-woman,” as she believes the label encompasses many aspects of the pro-life movement.
“I also have a difficult time with the title of the club being pro-woman, pro-choice because I feel like being pro-woman can apply to more than just people who consider themselves pro-choice,” Emerson said. “A large part of the pro-life movement is protecting women. The movement tries to protect women from going through the emotional trauma that accompanies abortions many times. The movement also strives to protect the lives of future women by advocating to their right to life.”