Students Debate on Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice

SJU Views partners with Feminists Unite for second panel


SJU Views, Feminists Unite and New York College Republicans gather to debate over pro-life vs. pro-choice

Students of different viewpoints shuffled into the conference room to talk about their opinions on reproductive rights on Nov. 4 during Common Hour on the fourth floor of the D’Angelo Center. SJU Views, in conjunction with Feminists Unite and the New York College Republicans, hosted an event to find common ground between students who hold pro-life or pro-choice views. 

Rachel Yakubov, the president of SJU Views, when asked about its purpose, said, “SJU Views was created in an effort to bring a conversational platform to St. John’s University. Unfortunately, in today’s political climate, it is extremely tough to share views and opinions regarding controversial topics. We are here to provide liberals, conservatives and everyone in between an environment to share their perspectives.”

Yakubov and her vice president, Daniella Shimunov, started the debate by defining clear terms. They started by using the CDC’s definition of abortion as, “In legal terms, an intervention performed by a licensed clinician that is intended to terminate an ongoing pregnancy.” They also displayed data from the Guttmacher Institute showing that the abortion rates in 2017 were at their lowest point since Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court Decision in 1973 that now protects women’s reproductive rights.

After defining clear terms, Yakubov and Shimunov displayed the first discussion question, which was, “Should abortion be legal or illegal? Are there any exceptions?” 

One pro-choice student started off the discussion by saying, “Just putting a legal aspect on it… it takes away someone’s autonomy” if someone is not allowed to choose whether or not they can have an abortion. Another student responded by saying, “It’s just inside your body, but that’s about as far as that goes,” and “If you consented to it… you need to face the consequences.” 

While this upset many of the students of Feminists Unite, it sparked an intense discussion about at what point someone is a human. Many students agreed that a human is a human from conception, while others agreed that a human is a human once it is out of the womb and can live on its own. However, many students part of the New York College Republicans said that many people cannot live on their own, not just fetuses, like people with pacemakers or on life support. In addition, one student pointed out that to him, “A woman deserves a voice 110 percent, but a lot of people believe a fetus is a person, so who’s going to speak up for that?”

Shaeleigh Severino, a junior double major in Government and Politics and Legal Studies, took a more legal perspective saying, “the whole point of the pro-choice movement is so the government is not telling couples what they have to do.” When someone suggested that mothers could put their babies up for adoption, Severino said about their argument, “That’s just not feasible today in 2019… We have an enormous amount of people in the system, an enormous amount of people not being adopted.”

The second discussion question asked, “When do you think life begins?” Although some answers had already been proposed, it provoked every student to decide at what point a life is a life. Many people said that life begins at conception, some said after 24 weeks, when an abortion would be considered “late-term” and many said once the baby is born in no longer in the womb. One student recommended that since they had not yet agreed on what point someone is a human, that they should err on the side of caution.

Although the topic was so divisive, all of the students remained civilized and respectful. After Yakubov and Shimunov ended the debate, many of the students shook hands with each other and continued talking to the students on the other side. While many students minds were not changed, others reported better understanding of the opposition’s perspectives.