The Battalion. (College Station, Tex.) 1893-current, February 09, 2001, Image 13

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I : riday, February 9, 2001
A time to speak
Aggies for Life billboards spark debate between conflicting student beliefs
■«ct Arif |
Page 5B
eginning Feb. 12 and
running through Feb.
15, Aggies for Life, a
itudent organization, will spon
sor a graphically explicit dis
play at Rudder Fountain illus-
| rating the group’s opposition
:o abortion. The exhibit, mea-
>uring 17 feet 6 inches tall by
lie opinion? Instead, the group should find a less
offensive means of disseminating its opinions,
therefore greatly broadening the scope of its audi
ence. The billboards, are in poor taste and poor
judgement, and they are likely to garner more ene
mies than true followers.
|k 1 ext week, a student organization
|\| called Aggies for Life plans to
1 ll erect large displays nair Rudder
Fountain to advocate its stance against
abortion. Like many of the group’s
smaller sandwich boards around cam-
Aggies for Life is not just labeling itself as an
extremist group, its actions reflect negatively on
the entire oro-life movement. This disolav. among
pus, the displays will feature graphic
images of aborted fetuses. The group’s
plan has already drawn fire from a
||30 feet wide, contains large, full-color pictures of
1 tborted fetuses and women with mutilated breasts,
re| imong other graphic images.
The display, titled “Justice for All,” contains
four sides, with one of the sides containing a
‘plasma screen” continually airing an em-
ledPale-ftryostropy, or a video camera inserted into the
womb of a woman to examine the fetus. The other
I :hree sides contain pictures and captions of repro-
jductive health issues, accompanied by gruesome
graphic depictions of aborted fetuses, some of
Jihem measuring more than six feet tall. The dis-
Iplay will require approximately 5,500 square feet
Jin the Rudder Fountain area, according to the con
cessions permit filed by Aggies for Life with the
exas A&M University.
The Texas A&M Visitor’s Center, where
any prospective students and guests of the
niversity gain their first experience of A&M,
aces Rudder Fountain only a few yards away.
Aggies for Life has proven through its ac-
ions over the past few years that it is an ex-
lemist organization that will stop at nothing for
ttention. The group routinely positions “sand-
ich boards” displaying offensively graphic
ictures of aborted fetuses around campus, and
embers wear shirts with pride (as displayed
n the Aggies for Life Website) containing
iy the prev lumbers representing “babies” aborted at Bra-
os Valley Planned Parenthood.
Now Aggies for Life is sponsoring the “Jus-
ice for All” display. The setup has visited 19
ther campuses and met with much protest.
Though Aggies for Life has the right to this
display and is protected by the Constitution,
'the only attention this display will attract is
that of hostility and animosity toward the pro
life movement.
Two weeks ago, the display met a great deal
f resistance at Louisiana State University,
here some students stuck hundreds of coat
angers in the ground in an attempt to depict
he horrors of illegal abortions they think likely
f abortion were banned.
The debate about the display is not whether
ibortion should be legal. It is not even if this
isplay should be allowed by the University,
he real debate is if Aggies for Life truly is
ommitted to its mission of “opening the
inds of fellow Aggies,” or if its real motiva
tion is fueling the fire of animosity toward
heir organization.
, This display, along with the group’s sand-
ilwich boards and T-shirts, may address an issue
hodatJc" |hat Aggies for Life thinks is worth exposure,
n Yisrffl ^However, w hy would any organization continu-
four pi t itself against decency to illustrate its
land, only reaping the negative effects of pub-
Aggies for Life’s other actions, only further stig
matizes admitted pro-life advocates and the wild
activist stereotype.
On one of the displays, a phrase reads, “Do you
favor killing a child for the sins of her father?”
Above this phrase is a 6-foot color picture of a
dismembered fetus, aborted after 10 weeks of
With this in mind. Aggies for Life must be
asked the same question: “Do you favor killing
a movement (through negative public relations
and exposure) because of the sins of the ex
treme few?”
Chris Carter is a senior
speech communications major.
plays should not be allowed on campus.
Even though it will become so for some, the issue of
abortion is not the key element in this debate. Although the
issue intensities the emotions that separate the two camps,
the heart of the matter is the right of student organizations to
freely advocate their views on campus. While the tactics
used by Aggies for Life may seem distasteful or irresponsi
ble by some, they fall well within the umbrella of protected
free speech. The displays should be allowed to stand near
Rudder Fountain as planned.
As one of the designated “free speech areas” on campus,
the walkway between Rudder Tower and the Memorial Stu
dent Center (MSC) is a center of activity for various student
groups. Students living in temporary shacks^^showing off
their modified automobiles and preaching td the masses as
they walk to class are all allowed to use the area on a regular
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basis to espouse their beliefs and interests. The University
cannot deny that same right to a particular group based on
the disapproval of others.
“I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the
death your right to say it,” wrote Voltaire.
The right to freely express one’s views is an integral
part of American citizenship. Throughout its history,
America has survived Nazi parades, Ku Klux Klan rallies,
and protesters burning their flags and draft cards. Protect
ing free speech has been painful at times for this nation,
but it has been and continues to be the only acceptable 1
course of action.
Neither Americans nor Aggies can decide which
groups get to have their say and which do not. By infring
ing upon the rights of some citizens, the rights of all are
placed in jeopardy. Reasoning and free will are the tools 1
that should be used to counter opponents, not suppression-
and censorship. ,
There is little doubt that the displays will offend many'
students next week, but the right to express one’s views
cannot be abridged to prevent offending others. By their -
very nature, differing viewpoints confound, shock and
sometimes anger those who are exposed to them. Like
ideas and words, pictures cannot be excised from society -
because they displease certain portions of the population.
The images in question may be
viewed as obscene by some, but they "
are presented as factual representations’
of one consequence of a medical proce-,
dure. As long as the photos are not doc
tored or staged, it would be wrong to
shelter the public from them. As adults,
students can determine for themselves
whether those facts lead to a logical
conclusion or are just attempts to sensa
tionalize the issue.
By the same protection of free
speech that enables Aggies for Life to
display its materials, students will be
free to form their own opinions about
the group and its methods. Some stu
dents will choose to simply look the
otlrer way as they walk by the MSC.
Others will no doubt choose to protest
near the displays, also under the protec
tive umbrella of the free speech area.
Either way, they will be able to show -
their opposition to the group and their )
displays in a manner they choose.
Feedback is also an important part of
free speech. As the group making a
statement. Aggies for Life will bear full
responsibility for the displays and be *
subject to the full brunt of opposition ;
toward them. Such are the costs of par--
ticipating in a truly public forum.
Next week will pass, and the abor
tion issue will continue to divide Ag
gies. It is important that the right allow
ing them to express their views openly-
and freely is protected. No group, on ]
any side of any issue, should ever be si
lenced. In doing so, people are not pro
tected from objectionable materials;
they are prevented from reaching an in
formed decision.
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Mail Call
School vouchers:
bad idea, not
realistic, workable
for needy students
In Response to Brieanne
Porter's February 8 column.
In your article you discuss
the need for school vouchers
in our educational system. In
my opinion, school vouchers
are not only a bad idea, but
are detrimental to increasing
the effectiveness of public ed
The idea in itself is great: giv
ing poor children the chance to
attend private schools that offer
better education.
The problem lies in the logis
tics. The government just does
not have the resources to pro
vide all children who meet the
“voucher criteria” with money to
attend private schooling.
Some students would qualify,
but most would not, meaning
that a vast majority would be
left out in the cold. Secondly, by
allocating money for private
schools, you take money from
public schools, which is needed
to equip all those students left
out of the voucher system. With
less money, how can these in
stitutions improve?
If our motto in America is tru
ly going to be that “every stu
dent can learn” then we need to
equip our public schools with
the ability to provide that educa
tion. Should changes be made
to schools that score low on
standardized tests? Yes. But,
should that change be in re
moval of federal dollars from
public education to private edu
cation? Absolutely not. We need
to focus our attention on im
proving the entire public educa
tion system, not on helping a
few limited students.
As a Congresswoman re
marked to Michael Douglas in
The American President, “The
day we give in to school vouch
ers is the day we give up on
public education.” I don't think
as a country we are ready to do
Mark Merrell
Class of '02
Nicholas Roznovsky is a senior
political science major.
Editorials appearing in The Battalion reflect the ma
jority view of the editorial board members. They do
not necessarily reflect the opinions of other Battalion
staff members, the Texas A&M student body, regents,
administration, faculty or staff. Columns, guest
columns, cartoons and letters express the opinions of
the authors.
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The Battalion encourages
letters to the editor. Letters
must be 300 words or less
and include the author’s
name, class and phone
The opinion editor reserves
the right to edit letters for
length, style, and accuracy. Let
ters may be submitted in per
son at 014 Reed McDonald
with a valid student ID. Letters
may also be mailed to:
The Battalion - Mail Call
014 Reed McDonald
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX
Campus Mail: 1111
Fax: (409) 845-2647
Next week, pro-life student group Aggies for
Life plans to sponsor a display, supporting its be
liefs. The planned display, which will feature full-
color, enlarged photographs oUaborted fetuses,
has already been the topic of much discussion.
However, the question is nohAvtiether abortion
is right or wrong, because everVpnens entitled to
his or her own opinion. Instead, Aggies for Life
should re-evaluate its method o| disseminating its
argument against abortion.
Aggies for Life is to be commended for the
strength of its members’ beliefs. It is: admirable
to see a group of students celebrate their right to
free speech in such an obvious manner, especially
on a campus with a history of apathy toward ma
jor social issues. The members of Aggies for Life
should not stop fighting for their beliefs — howev
er, they should consider other ways of promoting
their cause.
The use of scare tactics seldom convinces
those who prefer to be persuaded with logic and
reason. Resorting to emotion, as opposed to log
ic, often makes strong arguments look weak and
ill conceived. Although the informational material
on the displays should remain intact, graphic pho
tographs will do little to sway observers who are
not already pro-life.
On the contrary, people often use the presence
of brutal images as an excuse to ignore a poten
tially offensive message. Students should not be
given this opportunity to ignore information that
could be relevant.
For each pro-life student who already agrees
with the message Aggies for Life promotes, there
will be another borderline student who could be
easily swayed either direction. Forcing these stu
dents to look at offensive images will not neces
sarily cause them to become pro-life — it could
just as easily have the opposite effect.
When dealing with an issue as emotional as
abortion, the mind can be a more powerful tool
than visual tools could ever be.
Aggies for Life should respect the student
body’s intelligence enough to present it with ratio
nal, undramatized facts about abortion. Students
are surely capable of making their decisions
based on what they feel is right, without the help
of mentally-disturbing graphics.