By Andy Lloyd
If students opposed to abortion can have a student group, students supporting the prochoice movement think they should too.
Russell Evans, a fourth-year business student, and Jen Gerson, a first-year journalism student, are leading the effort to form a prochoice student group to be called RyeChoice.
They’ve collected well over the 20 signatures required to prove RyeSAC that there is a general interest in the group on campus.
Evans and Gerson submitted the signatures and the proposed group’s constitution to RyeSAC on Tuesday.
Evans says the move to create RyeChoice was sparked by the increasing pro-life voice on campus.
“We were both a little worried about the student body getting biased information,” Evans said. “RyeChoice isn’t interested in promoting abortions; it comes down to a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body. And it’s a right worth defending.”
Evans asserts that abortion opponents have a right to express their opinions, but he has concerns about their antagonistic style.
“I worry about people implying abortion is murder. That could really hurt Ryerson women who have had abortions or have thought about it,” Evans says.
Evans sees RyeChoice’s main role on campus as an educational one. They want to get facts about abortions out to Ryerson students. The group would also provide a place for students to voice their concerns and ask questions on the issue.
Despite the fact that abortions are legal in Canada, Evans insists his group is relevant.
“The law can change. The existence of a group like Choose Life lets you know the right to choose is under attack. Students who feel passionately about these issues need to make sure they’re heard,” Evans says.
On the other side of the debate, Choose Life representative Mike Nieznalski also believes there’s a place for the pro-choice voice.
“We live in an open society. Everyone is free to express his or her views. We stand for the pro-life cause. If there’s anyone else on the opposite side, if they want to go ahead with their own group, it’s up to them,” Nieznalski said.
But Nieznalski disagrees with Evans and many others who have questioned his group’s right to exist as an official RyeSAC student group.
At last week’s RyeSAC election debate presidential candidate Ken Marciniec said that Choose Life Association shouldn’t exist because what they are advocating, a ban on abortion, would be a violation of human rights.
Nieznalski said he’s confused that Marciniec does not support a pro-life voice on campus but claims to be an advocate of freedom of speech.
According to Marciniec, the Choose Life group is distorting the issue.
“It’s not a matter of free speech. Their material is derogatory and hateful,” he said. “It’s not a pro-life group, it’s an anti-choice group. The notion that there would be an anti-choice group on campus is ridiculous.”
He argued that an anti-gay rights group wouldn’t be permitted, and neither should a group that wants to take away a woman’s right to choose.
While Marciniec openly opposes Choose Life’s bid to gain student group, but he doesn’t think RyeChoice is necessary either. In his opinion, the Women’s Centre fills the role of a pro-choice voice on campus.
Choose Life has also been heavily criticized for distributing pamphlets on campus that imply abortion is murder. Nieznalski said the pamphlets quoted Mother Theresa, and that the meanings are open to interpretation.
One leaflet, for example, said, “The greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion because it is a war against the child-murder by the mother herself.”
Despite distributing these provocative statements, Nieznalski maintains his group is sensitive to Ryerson women who have had abortions.
“These quotes send a message,” Nieznalski said. “They are there to make people think. We are not calling anybody anything.”