Anti-abortion display ignites debate


2,000 pink and blue flags wave in the Peace Quad as part of Wolf Pack for Life’s April 23 display to spread awareness of the number of abortions carried out each day in the U.S. Photo credit: Anna Knapp

Rose Wagner

An area of campus named after peace has become the center of a university-wide debate about abortion and political favoritism.

The student organization Wolf Pack for Life created a display of 2,000 blue and pink flags titled “Memorial of the Innocents” in the Peace Quad on April 23 in order to raise awareness of the number of abortions carried out each day in the U.S., according to Sophie Trist, English writing junior and president of Wolf Pack for Life. Controversy erupted in response to the display with some students opposing both the display itself and a lack of clarity as to whether the university allows for a pro-abortion rights student organization to exist.

“The intent of the demonstration was not to shame post-abortive women or make accusations. We were merely trying to represent statistics in an eye-catching way,” Trist said.

In addition to the flags and the organization’s posters displaying Wolf Pack for Life’s views on abortion, The Department of University Ministry set up signs near the display advertising counseling services for post-abortive women. Trist said that all of the resources used for the presentation were borrowed from Tulane University’s Right to Life club and all club members who stood by the display had attended a training session on how to respectfully convey their beliefs hosted by Louisiana Right to Life.

“We’re anti-abortion, anti-death penalty. We support human trafficking survivors,” Trist said. “We recognize that our anti-abortion stance is our most controversial one here at Loyola. We don’t ask that everyone agree with us; we just ask that they respect us.”

The Department of Student Involvement approved Wolf Pack for Life’s use of the space, however the resources at the event were not included in the event request and were not approved the university, according to Elizabeth Keating, assistant director for leadership and student engagement.

Despite these efforts by the organization, some students found the display to be invasive.

“Since our campus is so small, a demonstration of that size made it impossible to miss. At the end of the day, students were given the choice between possibly being traumatized by the display or having to miss their Monday classes,” music industry senior Andie Slein said.

Slein is one of over 400 students who signed a petition to “end political favoritism.” The petition advocates for either the creation of a pro-abortion rights club or for the university to issue a public apology.

“If the school’s stance is that we absolutely cannot have a pro-choice organization, then the right thing to do is have no student organizations that focus on reproductive rights. You either have to allow conversation from all perspectives or shut down the conversation altogether,” Slein said.

In the face of this controversy, the university has not said whether or not a pro-abortion rights student organization is allowed to exist at Loyola, but Ken Weber, interim director of university ministry and faculty moderator for Wolf Pack for Life, said that at least six years ago a similar debate arose and a decision was made. Weber said that cultures in general change and just because a decision was made in the past doesn’t mean a different decision couldn’t be made now.

The university’s leadership team will have a cabinet meeting April 30 to discuss how all sides of the abortion debate can have space at a Jesuit Catholic university, according to Weber.

“Monday’s event has brought to the attention of the administration the need to ensure appropriate platforms for all students to engage in dialogue around any topic they wish, including those that may seem to challenge our traditional foundations,” Weber said. “Loyola has the privilege and responsibility of providing contexts in which all voices are heard in an ongoing dialogue that pursues truth.”