Boston College students returning from spring break on Monday morning were greeted with a surprise of more than 2,000 pink and blue flags lining O’Neill Plaza. The display, part of BC Students for Life’s Celebrate Life Week pushed an anti-abortion message, with each flag representing one abortion that occurs each day in the United States. This display was counter-productive, hurtful, and has no place at this university.
The issue of choice in regard to sexual health often takes the spotlight of campus life at a Catholic university with a student body largely in support of the right to choose for anyone who may be looking for abortion. To be clear, we need to do more as a community to show that we are in support of anyone who can become pregnant exercising their constitutional and moral right to full and complete control over their own bodies. However, regardless of your views on choice, Monday’s demonstration is the exact opposite of creating a productive conversation and should not be tolerated under any circumstance. The flags and the graphic accompanying sign were designed to produce shock and to shame people who have made the challenging and emotional choice to have an abortion. Members of BC Students for Life failed to even have the decency to physically stand by their demonstration.
As a whole, Celebrate Life Week centers around issues of abortion and motherhood. Not all of the events, which remain to be seen, seem to be as problematic as the demonstration on Monday (providing they are handled inclusively and properly). However, Students for Life transforming a week of celebrating life into a week of advocating against abortion and for alternatives makes it disappointingly and unsurprisingly aligned with the national anti-choice movement. Though anti-abortion advocates have branded their movement as “pro-life,” they only discuss and fight for issues related to abortion—BC Students for Life have repeatedly shown themselves to be the same. Meanwhile, other issues concerning life are ignored: the United States continuing its practice of the death penalty (including the execution of Nathaniel Woods by the State of Alabama last week despite newfound evidence that he was innocent), a climate crisis threatening the future of our planet, and countless Americans every year dying from a lack of healthcare. Celebrating Life Week, though, refuses to advocate for any of these, and instead demonizes folks for getting an abortion.
The existence of this protest in the first place also demonstrates immense hypocrisy on the part of Boston College as an institution. Despite repressing the speech of organizations such as the Graduate Student Union, Climate Justice at Boston College, and other progressive groups, Boston College readily approves controversial and hurtful imagery put forward by groups ideologically aligned with the university. Additionally, Boston College refuses to recognize Students for Sexual Health or distribute any contraceptives on campus. This is deeply irresponsible and jeopardizes the health of countless students on its own, but also runs precisely contrary to Boston College’s apparent goal of limiting the number of abortions.
Reproductive rights, especially the right to an abortion, are heavily favored across this country but still face national, state-level attacks in addition to facing a daunting Supreme Court challenge that looks to threaten the long-term standing of the historic Roe v. Wade decision. Obviously, a vocal subset of students is speaking out against these same rights here at Boston College. If nothing else, the response from the student body is encouraging. Boston College Democrats put out a statement condemning the demonstration on Monday afternoon, which garnered widespread support on social media the following day. If we are to truly respond to this demonstration, we must speak out in force against the shameful nature of the demonstration, the university policies that allowed it to happen, and the hateful message it propagates. We must support women, trans men, and non-binary people on this campus in their right to their own bodies, and we must do it vocally and consistently. The response is in our hands.