On Sept. 23, Oles for Life hosted a guest speaker, Josh Brahm, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Tomson Hall. Brahm began the Equal Rights Institute after working for the pro-life movement since the age of 18. The event was titled “A Discussion about Bodily Autonomy and Abortion.”
The talk focused on confronting the abortion rights argument of bodily rights and specifically unpacking two different areas of focus within the current abortion debate. “One of them is very much focused on the personhood of the fetus — either abortion is justified or it’s not justified because the fetus is a person or it’s not a person. Then there’s also another huge part of the abortion debate that has to do with bodily rights arguments. Josh is mostly talking about the philosophy behind those sorts of arguments and what he thinks about like the different variations of them and how he responds to them,” said co-president of Oles for Life Oscar Lee ’23.
The following day, Friday Sept. 24, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Oles for Life tabled outside of Buntrock Commons with Brahm. “Any official student organization on campus is allowed to set up a table inside or outside of Buntrock as long as they set it up with the administration beforehand,” said Lee.
At the same time, two members of the St. Olaf student body held a sign and set up a table as a counter protest to the Oles for Life’s stance on abortion. “Most of the time, if we are being protested, it’s not usually like it was on Friday. Usually we don’t have people who are standing right in front of our table and the people had a table and brought it out right in front of ours,” Lee said.
The counter protesters placed their table directly in front of the Oles for Life table. The usual setup for an Oles for Life tabeling is a sign with the question “Should abortion remain legal?” and three options: yes, no, and it depends. The other table had the exact same set-up as a way to make fun of the Ole’s for Life with their question reading: Is it possible to poop without also peeing? The table was quickly taken away and the students remained to hold up their question on a sign.
“It was actually the administration that helped us out with that. The administration was involved in diffusing the situation,” Lee said.
The counter protesters were not affiliated with any specific organization, however other organizations have been working for anti-abortion issues. “I do not know much about the counterprotest as our organization was not involved in it,” said President of College Democrats Brock Lawhead ’23, in an email interview.
Oles for Life is a student organization led by Addie Jo Lambrecht ’23 and Oscar Lee ’23. The organization is “the leading pro-life club on campus whose goals are fostering dialogue with people and engaging people on campus and helping out women in difficult situations involving pregnacy mainly through the Northfield Women’s Center,” Lee said.
College Democrats is a student organization that is “committed to protecting the fundamental right of bodily autonomy, specifically with regard to family planning, contraception, and abortion services for all people with menstrual cycles,” Lawhead said. “Abortion is healthcare. Democrats stand in firm support for the right to choose at all times.”
Another organization on campus that is focused specifically on the abortion discussion is Students for Reproductive Rights, headed by Jocelyn Aguirre ’22 and Rhea Alley ’22.
“Students for Reproductive Rights hosts a collaborative lobbying day that involves talking with representatives and senators at the state capital to help push pro-choice legislation and efforts at the state level,” Lawhead said.
“We really want it to be very thoughtful, very respectful and very loving. The topic is so polarizing and people get really upset at the other side of the issue. We really just want to calm things down and have as good of a discussion as we possibly can and seriously examine the arguments on both sides,” Lee said.
“We appreciate the respectful intentions from Oles for Life, but disagree with them on the substance of the issue. The conversation surrounding abortion has extremely high stakes — the right to autonomy over one’s own body. This right is very important to many students on campus, and many are uninterested in taking time out of their day to have a conversation about losing this right. This is the primary reason for the polarization in feelings toward the pro-life group’s tabling on campus,” Lawhead said.
Reporting on the abortion discussion on St. Olaf’s campus is ongoing.