Last Monday, Pro-Life Slippery Rock hosted a pro-life/pro-choice debate at 7:30 p.m. in Spotts Auditorium. The debate featured Dr. Heather Frederick, representing the pro-choice side, and Bonnie Schaefer, representing the pro-life side.
Dr. Heather Frederick is a professor of political science at Slippery Rock. Fredrick’s law background came through in the debate, citing numerous legal decisions regarding abortion ranging from their origin in America to present-day and observing that the constitution protects “naturally born citizens.”
Bonnie Schaefer is the executive director of the Alpha Omega Center. Schaefer explained the Center is a medical office that works with women in first trimester pregnancies with the goal to educate them about their pregnancies, making it clear she was not a lawyer. Schaefer proved able to hold her own in discussing laws, towards the end of the debate even earning an “A+” from Dr. Frederick for her description of how the government determines the legality of the issue.
The debate examined when human life begins, government’s role in abortion, the possible ramifications of illegalization of abortions, the medical policies surrounding pregnancy and abortion, and the role of a woman’s body in terms of abortion.
Overall, students agreed both sides of the debate represented the issue well. “I think everyone walked away with both sides represented,” said the Pro-Life Slippery Rock founder, Josh Weitzel.
Shelby Heisler, a sophomore secondary education history major, agreed with Weitzel, admitting, “I was on the fence about how I felt until the debate.” Heisler felt that both candidates were qualified to discuss the issue, commenting that one thing she felt both representatives did a great job of was not centering the topic on religion. “The debate really opened my eyes about how much this issue affects society and women’s rights,” Heisler said.
President Cheryl Norton served as the moderator, providing a neutral, go-with-the-flow overtone with lighthearted shrugs and comedic relief at times to an otherwise potentially hostile and heated debate. Norton joked at the start of the debate that her questions were written in “large writing” so she could read without her glasses.
Shortly before the debate began, President Norton stated how happy she was to see so many students attending the event, elaborating, “Probably no issue has divided our country more…I think it’s appropriate to be discussing it on an education campus because it’s here that we can talk about ideas, we can talk about opinions, we can talk about issues in a safe environment that allows people to express themselves in ways obviously they may feel uncomfortable doing so off of a campus.”
The debate began with a discussion of when life begins, which Schaefer responded as at the moment of conception, citing it as the “scientific” moment when new life begins. Schaefer moved on to explain that the real issue that needs to be discussed is whether or not the unborn are humans, explaining “if the unborn are not human- then we can kill the unborn.”
Schaefer brought forth this argument many times throughout the debate; at times bring exasperation from some pro-choice members of the audience.
Dr. Frederick’s opening statement colorfully began by describing horrible things women do to themselves to rid themselves of pregnancy, and declaring “talking about when life begins is futile; I don’t have the answer to that. What I do know is that women are willing to go through excruciating pain rather than remain pregnant…it tells us that women will always find a way to end an unwanted pregnancy, regardless of the law,” Frederick added, “no one who is pro-choice is pro-abortion…no one is out there yelling ‘yay abortion!’”
Schaefer made some thought-provoking analogies throughout the debate, comparing the life of a human to that of building a Cadillac and comparing the unborn being seen as less than a person to the slavery of African Americans.
Following the debate, Tyler Prevade, a sophomore history major, explained “both sides provided excellent arguments,” noting how passionate both members of the debate were. Prevade felt that it was difficult to determine how an individual feels about the issue unless they go through it. “It’s tough to have a clear, defined opinion…on an issue like this I don’t really have my mind made up,” Prevade said.
As with any good debate on a controversial topic, many felt that there was no clear “winner,” but hopefully students gained some valuable insight into how they personally feel.
“It’s hard to put a winner ‘tag’ on a person. I would say that both parties presented their ideas and their stances on the issue,” Nick Jones, junior public health major said. “I’m glad that Slippery Rock is able to have these types of debates with such great controversy and I’m really glad that the student body is coming together and listening on these different facts…I think that really goes to show that we have a rock-solid education.”