A Nov. 17 anti-abortion display set up by students in conjunction with Louisiana Right to Life has resulted in backlash from students and reignited a years-long campus debate about abortion.
Wolf Pack For Life, in collaboration with Louisiana Right to Life, hosted an anti-abortion event in the St. Charles Room of the Danna Center Tuesday morning. The event, which was not publicly advertised, featured art displays provided by the statewide organization that featured an image of a fetus along with the caption: “Why Can We Kill Her Then & Not Now?”
Many students were upset by the display’s presence in the Danna Center, with some taking to social media to criticize the student organization’s event. Wolf Pack for Life disabled comments on their Instagram post of the event, but students condemning the Nov. 18 display have left upwards of 75 comments on the organization’s other Instagram posts.
“We aren’t necessarily surprised by the negative reactions we’ve gotten to our post and the event as a whole,” Wolf Pack for Life Vice President Jonathan Marshall said. “We aren’t letting that faze us since we know what we care about is worth standing for. Additionally, we’ve chosen not to respond to comments because we do not want to break Loyola’s code of conduct where it pertains to bullying and harassment.”
Anastasia Small, political science junior, sent a mass email to University President Tania Tetlow, Executive Director of Student Affairs Alicia Bourque, Chief Student Conduct Officer and Title lX Coordinator Diana Ward, the provost’s office and The Maroon criticizing the display.
“I saw it on campus and I was just appalled,” said Small during an interview with The Maroon. “I can only imagine how someone who got an abortion would feel. To be in the place that is supposed to be my community and then be shamed for a decision that was already traumatizing enough for me? And have the seal of the school behind them? I can only imagine.”
“I was just so upset and I hadn’t seen the school say anything about it but I know this club has the school’s endorsement,” said Small. “It makes me so mad that they really preach that they’re the school for inclusivity and they still pull stuff like this.”
Shante Collins, psychology sophomore, said the display left her feeling “disgusted.”
“Even though I’m a psych major, I’m also Southern Baptist so I have my science backing and my religious backing,” Collins said. “My church taught me that you can make your own moral decisions but you can’t force anyone else to do anything. Then my science side says that you have to have some type of science backing and none of that was there, it was just a bunch of strong opinions.”
Louisiana Right to Life Director Kandace Landreneau said that they’ve brought the display to three other universities and she believes it is important for her organization to interact with college students.
“We offer help to any parenting student and we offer a challenge to students who believe it’s right to end innocent human life, but we do it by inviting conversation not conflict,” said Landreneau. “Students go to college to challenge their beliefs and this is a good event to do for everyone. We all need to know what abortion actually is and how it destroys human life every day in our state.”
Unlike typical student organization events, the display was not publicly advertised on HowlConnect, so students outside of Wolf Pack For Life did not know of the event prior to Nov. 18. Many first learned about it by seeing the display in the Danna Center.
“We chose that option mainly because we wanted to get all the details right with (administration) before we put it up and we never ended up changing it because it was going to be in the St. Charles Room where everyone could see it,” Marshall said.
Small said she would’ve appreciated it if the event had been advertised publicly.
“I think they need to give people a heads-up, add a trigger-warning or something like that,” Small said. “You’re on your way to class, you don’t expect to be shamed for having an abortion.”
President of Loyola College Democrats Andi Robinson said she thought that Wolf Pack for Life would’ve gotten a better response from the community had they publicly advertised the event.
“In our past events, pre-COVID, we would advertise our events on HowlConnect so that anyone could come even if they didn’t go to Loyola,” Robinson said. “It’s very weird to me that they would hide it from people.”
The event and the HowlConnect posting were approved by Student Affairs officials, according to Associate Director of Public Affairs Patricia Murret.
“We understand that the display crossed boundaries for some of our students, we take their feedback to heart and will keep it in mind for future exhibits on this topic, ” said Murret. “To provide some context, I’d like to share with you how the process works and is illustrated within our Catholic, Jesuit institution. The Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) believes in the sanctity of life, from conception to death, and likewise Loyola, as a Catholic, Jesuit institution, holds the same values.”
This controversy comes amid a years-long campus debate about access to abortion and reproductive rights. In 2019, the College Democrats felt pressured by a university administrator to uninvite a speaker from a panel on women’s health because her views were “too extreme.” The speaker was the only guest associated with an organization that explicitly funds and sponsors abortions and she was uninvited from the event.
Back in the spring of 2018, students clashed over a Wolf Pack for Life display called “Memorial of the Innocents” that used pink and blue flags to raise awareness of the number of abortions carried out each day in the U.S. What followed was a debate, that lasted through 2020, between students and the university about whether an abortion-rights club could be chartered considering Loyola’s policies and Jesuit tradition.