The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Flier Flop

Anti-Planned Parenthood fliers stir controversy among students and campus orgs

Members of Students for Life posted 250 fliers advertising to defund Planned Parenthood around the Queens campus on Wednesday afternoon, leading to a backlash among students on Twitter who took issue with the alleged information.

The posters contained controversial statistics regarding Planned Parenthood, including hashtags that wrote, “Defund Planned Parenthood,” “Women Betrayed,” and “PP [Planned Parenthood] Sells Baby Parts.”

Within 24 hours, the fliers were taken down from the walls of Marillac Hall, the D’Angelo Center, St. Albert’s Hall and on-campus residence halls in the wake of the vehement response by students. Some told the Torch they tore down the posters themselves, while members of Students for Life stated they were asked to take down the fliers by Campus Ministry, whose logo was included on the flier.

Associate Vice President of Campus Ministry Tori Santangelo said the fliers were not approved.

“Those fliers should have never gone up,” she said. “Those are not the way we would put out a pro-life message, in the form that those went up would have not been approved because they did not invite students to talk about the issue.”

According to Vice President of Student Government Inc. Sarah Hanna, student organizations are required to have an SGI stamp of approval on fliers, while stamps on departmental fliers are not necessary.

In the case with Students for Life, the organization would have needed Campus Ministry’s approval before attaching the department’s logo on the flier.

According to e-board members of Students for Life Rose Haslbauer and Joseph Barry, the student group had originally planned a campaign that included posting the anti-Planned Parenthood fliers, as well as a chalking outside of the D’Angelo Center, St. Thomas More church and the Great Lawn. “Defund Planned Parenthood” and “Social Justice Begins In The Womb” hashtags would be written in chalk throughout the campus. Barry had submitted the campaign to Campus Ministry, but lacked to receive a concrete approval.

While Students for Life President Joseph Barry says that Campus Ministry had approved of the chalking, he states he had miscommunicated the complete authorization of the campaign, and holds himself at fault for the misconstruing.

“They approved the chalking, they approved the message to defund Planned Parenthood as part of the chalking,” he said. “I just assumed that we were on the same wavelength.”

According to Barry, the campaign was in response to Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards hearing to the House of Representatives. Richards testified on federal subsidies for the non-profit organization.

“This was supposed to be a timely campaign to address an ongoing news story as the day after Cecile Richards testified before the House,” he said.

Students for Life Vice President Nicholas Cerbo anticipated the message would initiate discussion with students.

“We were hoping to introduce a conversation about it,” Cerbo said.


Regarding the statistics


Data included the controversial 94 percentage statistic attributed to the Susan B. Anthony list, a national pro-life organization. According to Students for Life e-board members Barry and Haslbauer and Public Relations Chair Michael Chirichella, all information was received by the Students for Life for America national organization.

Other material included in the fliers were hashtags promoting defunding Planned Parenthood, as well as allegations that the organization had enshrouded statutory rape, accepted money to abort specifically colored infants, and double-billed taxpayers, amongst others.

Students who opposed the fliers emphasized the alleged inaccuracy of the posted information.

In a 2015 Washington Post article, writer Michelle Ye Hee Lee analyzed the error in the 94 percentage statistic, as well as Planned Parenthood’s three percentage statistic. In Planned Parenthood’s 2013-14 annual report, the organization disclosed that “three percent of all Planned Parenthood health services are abortion services.” When computing all Planned Parenthood health services, abortion services do only add up to three percent.

However, SBA’s 94 percentage statistic incorporates solely pregnancy services, such as prenatal services, adoption referrals and abortion services. When calculating these services, the abortion services do count for 94 percent of Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy services.

Associate Vice President of Campus Ministry Tori Santangelo was unsure if the statistics placed on the posters were completely accurate.

“I just need to be clear that I am not sure of any of those facts,” she said. “I don’t know, I don’t have any idea that those facts were correct.”

St. John’s juniors Hannah Lang and Sara Restrepo Cortes both shared their stances on the fliers via Twitter, and participated in tearing the posters down throughout campus.

“I think the fliers are very misleading,” Lang said. “None of them are actually accurate.”

Restrepo Cortes agrees, and named the fliers propaganda.

“I feel like a lot of the purpose behind these posters was fueled by hate, and a lot of numbers were very inaccurate,” she said.

Restrepo Cortes says she has visited Planned Parenthood for five years, and believes that the subject of abortion rights is constantly stigmatized.

“A lot about that topic is very taboo,” she said. “And that’s not fair.”


Question of accountability


Senior Dylan Legarda expressed his upsets on the fliers, and anticipates an apology from Students for Life.

“I would like to see someone held accountable, I would like to see some form of apology,” he said.

Restrepo Cortes hopes to see a larger punishment taken against the group.

“I don’t want them active for the rest of the semester,” she said.

Students for Life Secretary Rose Haslbauer believes the information is accurate, even if it may be grim to face.

“Sometimes with an issue like this, there really is no other way to word it besides the way that we did,” she said. “We’re not sorry for putting those facts out there.”

Barry agrees. “The posters are, without a doubt, hard to stomach, but we believe that’s because those facts are hard to stomach,” he said. “In regards to the accusations that Students for Life is a hate group, as president I feel we owe nobody an apology for carrying out Students for Life our mission.”


Moving Forward


Although the timing has yet to be finalized, Haslbauer confirmed that new, edited fliers will be posted on campus. Furthermore, Students for Life plans on hosting a meeting to invite a dialogue with students.

“A meeting to address the issue, for people who did see the posters and maybe were offended by it if they have any questions about it, and to address what happened,” Haslbauer said.

Legarda hopes that in the future, both Students for Life and Campus Ministry will be more liable in their organization.

“They have to be more responsible, in being that umbrella for different groups,” he said.


Additional reporting contributed by Cheyanne Gonzales


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Amanda Umpierrez, News Editor
News Editor:
Amanda is a senior Journalism major/Government and Politics minor who has been with the Torch for a year and a half. She intends to inform the St. John's community of important information on a local, national and international level.
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