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College Students See the Human Face of Abortion


When the Question Abortion campaign was first unveiled in 1997, Planned Parenthood called it "the newest and most challenging concept in anti-choice student organizing."

Feminists for Life's expanded "Question Abortion" campaign, which will hit college campuses this fall, has already earned a grudging compliment from a surprising source: Planned Parenthood.

When the Question Abortion campaign was first unveiled in 1997, Planned Parenthood called it "the newest and most challenging concept in anti-choice student organizing."

The newly expanded campaign uses a series of ads to address the most common pregnancy-related concerns of college women.

Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life, told the Register that college women are "the group at highest risk for abortion." One-fifth of all abortions are performed on college women, she said.

Moreover, many women enter college pro-life and leave pro-abortion. A 1996 Gallup poll found that 47% of young women are pro-life when they graduate from high school, but after four years of college ,that number drops to 24%.

Foster attributed this decline to the fact that campus life offers no support for pregnant women, leaving them to get an abortion or drop out of school.

Feminists for Life believes its Question Abortion ads can help to change this. Foster said the campus campaign was "inspired by a former board member [of Feminists for Life]. She had broken up with her boyfriend, and then discovered she was pregnant. She looked around on her campus and saw that they were building new dorms for the basketball players, and she had no place to live with her child. She looked at her student health coverage and found that there was no maternity coverage."

The student did not want to get an abortion, but, under the stress of trying to figure out how she could take care of her child while remaining in school, she miscarried.

Several of the new ads seek to aid women in similar situations. One reads, "They say I have a free choice. But without housing on campus for me and my baby, without on-site daycare, without maternity coverage in my health insurance, it sure doesn't feel like I have much of a choice."

The ad tells students to call Feminists for Life if they want to expand the support their college gives pregnant women, or if they need information on pregnancy resources.

Another ad in the campaign lists crisis pregnancy centers, with the headline, "You're not alone anymore."

Feminists for Life has assembled a kit for people who want to increase their college's support for pregnancy and parenting. The kit includes guides on counseling pregnant women, information on establishing paternity and collecting child support from fathers, and brochures describing the many options other than abortion - getting married, raising the child alone, asking the child's grandparents or other kin to care for the baby, and open and closed adoption.

Kathryn Getek, former president of the Ivy Coalition for Life, said, "If we truly care about the rights of women, the very least we can do is make carrying pregnancy to term a realistic choice."

Other Question Abortion ads cover a range of topics. One features 19th-century feminist Susan B. Anthony, who was anti-abortion, with the ironic caption, "Another anti-choice fanatic."

Another ad informs students that a man who refuses to support his child can face legal penalties, including loss of his driver's license.

Two of the most potent new ads use emotionally charged messages to highlight pro-life arguments. One, featuring a baby peering out from a hooded coat, asks, "Is this the face of the enemy?"

Another addresses what Foster calls "the No. 1 question that Feminists for Life is asked on campus" - the question of rape. It shows Rebecca Wasser Kiessling, author of the 1999 Glamour magazine article "My Father Was a Rapist." Beneath her picture, Kiessling asks, "Did I deserve the death penalty?"

She continues, "'The next time you hear people talking about 'exceptions' to abortion for rape and incest. think of me. My name is Rebecca. I am that exception."

Foster said the ad seeks to "put a face on the women who were conceived through sexual assault."

All the ads were shown to pro-life and pro-abortion students and activists before they were included in the Feminists for Life campaign. The Kiessling ad and the "face of the enemy" ad provoked the strongest responses, Foster told the Register. When they are shown, she said, "People on both sides of the debate are stunned."

Planned Parenthood refused to comment for this article.

However, when several Question Abortion ads were shown in 1997 at a conference held by American Collegians for Life, Planned Parenthood's Clinic Defense and Research team gave them some unintended compliments. An article in the Clinic Defense and Research team's magazine, The Insider, warned pro-abortion lobbyists that the campaign "could have profound impact on the anti-choice movement as well as Planned Parenthood's public education and advocacy efforts."


Eve Tushnet. "College Students See the Human Face of Abortion." National Catholic Register. (September 10-16, 2000).

Reprinted by permission of the National Catholic Register. To subscribe to the National Catholic Register
call 1-800-421-3230.


Eve Tushent writes for the National Catholic Register.

Copyright 2000 National Catholic Register



Copyright 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved