A panel discussion was held Monday night in the Welles-Brown Room to discuss the differing opinions and issues concerning abortion.

Jennifer Smith, the co-president of Amnesty International, organized the discussion and presented each of the speakers to the audience. “I was glad to see this issue being openly discussed in a way that let people hear both the pro-life viewpoint and the pro-choice viewpoint in the same forum,” freshman Erica Winkler said.

The speakers included Carol Crossed, Mary Dwelley, Nathan Nobis and Eric Shaff.

Carol Crossed, the first speaker, is the President of Democrats for Life of America. DLA is a group that addresses the issues of life in the form of anti-abortion, anti-war, anti-racism and similar issues.

She emphasized that the Democratic Party’s consistent pro-choice view on abortion is contributing to their failure as a political party.

Dr. Eric Shaff, chair of the National Abortion Federation, is a pediatrician with a specialty in adolescent medicine and a professor of family medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology.

He is also an international consultant on safe abortion practices and has active projects in Eastern Europe, India and Kenya.

Shaff emphasized that abortion is illegal in countries where women are oppressed while it is legal in countries where women have equal rights. He also emphasized that women are morally capable of making decisions concerning abortion, and in countries without family planning abortion is needed to control population growth.

Also, because of illegal – “underground” abortions – women in these nations often end up hospitalized, maimed and even dead. It is estimated by the World Health Organization that 70 to 80 thousand women die each year from clandestine abortions.

Mary Dwelley, the vice-president of Feminists for Life of New York, spoke after Shaff. Her organization opposes all forms of violence and discrimination.

She has been involved all of her adult life in civil rights and anti-war efforts and has received the VITA Award and Common Ground for Life’s Susan B. Anthony Award.

She stressed that abortion is the ultimate act of violence against women and children and called it a “legacy of death disguised as emancipation of women.”

She cited problems such as a lack of resources and lack of communication in relationships as reasons why women feel the need to seek abortions.

She also called attention to the age-old question of when a fetus is considered to be a person – right after fertilization or at a particular time afterwards – a never-ending argument between the pro-life and pro-choice parties.

Nathan Nobis, a graduate student of Philosophy at UR also presented his views. He stated that “most actual abortions are not wrong – they are morally OK. Relatively few actual abortions might be wrong.” He continued to reason against seven “common informal arguments made against abortion,” addressing especially the issue of personhood. Nobis concluded against these arguments.

“These arguments against abortion are weak. They just don’t show that aborting early fetuses is wrong so they don’t show that most abortions are wrong,” Nobis said.

“I think it went pretty well,” senior and member of the Women’s Caucus Alison Schroth said. “Most people tend to agree with arguments that enforce their own viewpoint, but both sides did a good job.”

Goemaat can be reached at kgoemaat@campustimes.org.

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