On Thursday, March 30, 2023, a campus organization at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) called Students For Life hosted a speaker from the national organization of Students for Life America to a talk called “Lies Pro-Choicers Believe.” Unfortunately, but somewhat predictably, the presentation never got off the ground because the speakers were shouted down. The confrontation progressively devolved despite the presenters trying to reason with the protestors and asking them to respond with legitimate questions or arguments rather than invective. Ultimately, members of the pro-life were attacked, with two receiving injuries. Two people were ultimately arrested for assault.
VCU’s response to the incident was less than impressive. Local police, Instead of removing the disruptive students from the presentation, instead escorted members of Students for Life VCU from the venue. These students and presenters were isolated in a room while the protestors were permitted to disperse. In effect, the response from the school and local authorities was to shut down the event: the mob of violent protestors and hecklers got their way. This is what passes for “social justice” on America’s college campuses.
Ultimately, it turns out that VCU was even further remiss in handling this affair responsibly. Outside agitators who were reputed to be associated with Antifa, the trans movement, and Black Lives Matter were given access to the venue to provoke the confrontation and to escalate the aggression to the point of assault. Two of these outsiders were the ones arrested.
The Right to Speak Freely is Fundamental
Understandably, people hold different opinions on many issues. But disagreement, even strong disagreement, is not a “bug” in our culture; it is a feature. People are different, and in our country, they are not only allowed to hold different views but are entitled to express them. They also have the right to assemble with others of similar minds, and those who want to hear them have the right to listen to what they have to say. These are not difficult concepts, and they are embedded in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Disagreement, argument, and persuasion are how ideas and policies are tested and resolved. Engaged and respectful disagreement is how we learn from one another and how minds are informed and changed.
The VCU Students for Life group reserved a room on campus for this discussion. Those who disagreed with its premise were welcome to stay away or to protest respectfully. But the First Amendment cannot be rightly understood to allow anyone to silence those who have a right to speak and to prevent others from hearing what they have to say. The First Amendment protects speech, not censorship. This idea is fundamental to our republic. Without it, the vitality of our republic is in serious jeopardy.
The Silence from Pro-Choice Organizations is Deafening
Despite this fundamental idea, those in authority – the police and this public university – exhibited willful ignorance. And to date, no pro-abortion organization has condemned what happened at VCU. Their silence speaks volumes: this episode at VCU is a prime example of what the pro-abortion movement is today. It is unwilling to entertain the idea that human life is ever worth valuing.
In other words, the modern pro-abortion movement no longer pretends that what they advocate is a troubling or unfortunate choice for women in difficult situations. They now view women killing their unborn babies as a social good. They exalt this culture of death: not only are babies’ lives valueless, but all lives lack value. Their willingness to condone the attack on pro-life students without reservation is emblematic of today’s pro-abortion movement.
However, as despicable as the events at VCU are, there is a silver lining to this cloud.
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students For Life America, has said that, despite the silence of pro-abortion organizations, she has received many messages from pro-choice individuals expressing regret for what happened to her at VCU. Though they disagreed with her stance on abortion, they were appalled by the behavior of the students and officials at VCU. This may seem like a small consolation, but it is actually significant. Because when rational people see how pro-abortion advocates behave, they may begin to have second thoughts about what they stand for and the kind of people they are forced to stand with.
The intolerance shown by this group of pro-abortion agitators is not limited to the abortion issue. Numerous self-identified groups are becoming more violent and strident in their willingness to discard the First Amendment on the conviction that certain thoughts should not be held, let alone voiced. They are unwilling to brook dissent from their rigid orthodoxy, no matter how perverse the cause. What is more, the puritanical, angry, and violent behavior of these “protesters” give the lie about who they are, and no one with sense wants to share in their misery, despair, and nihilism.
At ProLife Doc, we know that the battle for life can be won when the enemy clearly has nothing positive to recommend itself. If one side can only “win” an argument through incoherent screaming and violence, if its views are so unsupportable that they can only be maintained by quashing all possibility of dissent, it will lose. No amount of bullying will ever overcome its inherent weakness. We seem to have reached the stage where that is all they have left.