Two Loyola groups on opposite sides of the reproductive rights argument came together on March 2 to discuss topics including reproductive justice, abortion and contraception.
Students for Reproductive Justice (SRJ), a group focused on reproductive health that advocates for free contraception at Loyola, and Loyola Students for Life, a pro-life student group, hosted a debate-style panel discussion to a packed room in the Damen Den.
Both groups answered questions from a moderator and had two and a half minutes to speak on each question. Questions included what role men should take in reproductive justice, when human life begins and what resources should be offered to women facing unplanned pregnancies.
The audience of students were asked to hold applause for points they agreed on. But audience members broke this rule many times by snapping fingers in agreement to different points.
The groups remained civil in their discussion, often found points of agreement, including that women should not be forced into any decision about an unplanned pregnancy.
“No woman should be called into motherhood or forced into motherhood when she knows that she is not able to provide the proper resources for her child for the entirety of their life,” said SRJ panelist Lauren Morrissey, 18.
In response, Loyola Students for Life panelist Sarah Earley agreed that women need a proper support system.
“I agree with you that women should have resources in place to care for their child before, during [and] after birth,” Earley said. “We see that life in the womb as a human person also deserving of dignity. That is not to say we are trying to force women to give birth, that is not the goal of the pro-life movement — it is to provide women with resources to make an informed decision.”
The students also found common ground with Jesuit Catholic teaching as a moral guideline for potential mothers. While Loyola Students for Life said they believe in the Church’s opposition to abortion, SRJ said they would rather allow Catholic Social Teaching, which includes a preferential treatment for poor people, to be the major influence.
The panels clashed on other topics, however, such as the aftereffects of having an abortion and whether or not Loyola, as a Jesuit school, should provide reproductive resources such as contraception at the Wellness Center.
Loyola adheres to the Catholic Church’s stance against contraception and abortion, meaning the Wellness Center does not provide contraceptives or referrals for abortion.
SRJ panelist Christina Frasik said that Loyola should provide contraception because not every student is Catholic or Christian. Loyola Students for Life panelist Earley said that asking the Jesuit school to change its stance and go against Catholic teachings is unrealistic.
SRJ panelist Morrissey said she felt the dialogue was overall productive.
“It’s clear that we still disagree on some things, but we also do agree on some things, which I’m pretty psyched about because that’s something I didn’t really know,” the political science and theology double major said.
The sophomore said she hopes to continue the discussion with Loyola Students for Life past the Den Dialogue.
“I would definitely be in support of reaching out to Loyola Students for Life in the future, just like maybe attending one of our meetings or something like that,” Morrissey said. “I think that would be awesome.”
Paul Burghard, a 20-year-old panelist from Loyola Students for Life, said he was glad that both groups were able to have a discussion to better understand each other and each other’s views.
“I’m glad we were able to have this really important dialogue about … Loyola’s policies and the Catholic identity of the university with both voices equally included,” the sophomore political science and economics double major said.
Senior audience member Laura Hillebrand, 21, said she appreciated seeing the two opposing groups engaging with each other in a civil manner.
“The way these two groups are portrayed in popular media or culture maybe [isn’t] necessarily reflected in what I’m seeing here, which is comforting,” the sociology and French double major said.