War of the words
Protest has once again reached the front of Frist Campus Center.
Princeton Pro-Life kicked off its "Respect Life Week" Monday by setting up 347 flags in front of Frist to mourn aborted individuals who may have entered the Class of 2010.
"Class of 2010: 347 didn't make it," reads the sign accompanying the blue and pink flags. "We honor the memory and mourn the loss of those 347 innocents killed in the womb by abortion, who would have been part of Princeton's class of 2010."
Pro-Life president Tom Haine '08 said the 347 figure was calculated by considering that in 1988 — when most members of the Class of 2010 were born — there were 1.5 million abortions and four million births.
"We worked down a percentage, but it is a rhetorical device," Haine said. "We hope to help students realize the immediate impact that abortion has had on their lives. Abortion is depriving us of meaningful people who were killed in the womb."
The move prompted pro-choice students to display a banner above the flags with their own statement about abortion.
"How many women would have been mutilated or killed in coathanger or back-alley abortions?" the sign reads.
Haine, however, questioned whether the pro-choice students have permission from the Dean of Undergraduate Students to stage its counter-protest.
"As far as I know, we've reserved 1879 lawn, all of it," Haine said.
Whether sanctioned or not, Haine noted, "the sign about back-alley protests doesn't counter our argument in any meaningful way. I think [Princeton Pro-Choice Vox] should be able to recognize that in 1988 we had 1.5 million fewer Americans ... they could have been our fellow Princetonians."
Princeton Pro-Choice Vox co-chairwoman Anne Twitty GS said that while her group is not responsible for the banner, "we're not surprised that students unaffiliated with our organization have decided to voice their support for a woman's right to choose — the majority of Americans believe that abortion should remain legal."
"We've all taken the reproductive freedoms we've enjoyed for more than 30 years for granted, and now it's time to take action," she added.
Several pro-choice students voiced concern over the flags' message.
"How many flags did they put up? 350? Take that number and multiply it by 1000. That's how many Princetonians have benefited from living in a country where freedom and choice are valued over state-established religion," Aaron Spolin '08 said. "Flags make for pretty pictures, but I'd honestly choose 'choice' any day."
The flags also project an image of the University that may turn off prospective students, Susan Lyon '09 said in an email.
"I respect freedom of speech on the part of all student groups, but I think that to put forth such an explicit, controversial message on the lawn in front of Frist — whether coming from a pro-life, pro-choice or any other student group — is an inaccurate image of Princeton as a whole," Lyon said. "Their timing is particularly dramatic and insensitive given that it's Prefrosh weekend, and I wouldn't be surprised if this display negatively affects Princeton's yield for the class of 2010."
Haine said the flags' major goal was to encourage campus debate and reflection.
"The most encouraging thing is walking outside and seeing four or five groups of people talking about it," he said. "The most discouraging thing is people arguing about the exactness of numbers."
Liberal campus activist Asheesh Siddique complimented Pro-Life's effort.
"I support their freedom of speech and hope all students at Princeton can transcend ideological differences to work together on both reducing the number of abortions ... and securing the privacy and health of all Americans," he said.
The flags are only a part of Princeton Pro-Life's events this week. The group will staff a table in Frist for the rest of the week with information and other statistics about abortion. Women who regretted their abortions came to speak about their experiences Monday, and after a discussion on euthanasia Thursday, the week will conclude with a candelight vigil Friday to honor the memory of members of the Class of 2010 who Pro-Life considers lost.
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