Clarification in response to “Voice for Life protests Planned Parenthood” by Abby Biesman in the Johns Hopkins News-Letter

To view the article published, please click here. Please note that the article has been changed since its original publication: “Correction: The article previously stated that there were 897 pink crosses at the display to represent the number of abortions performed in the U.S. each day. However, the crosses represent the 897 abortions performed by Planned Parenthood each day. Additional clarifications have been made to better explain the intended purpose of the event.” A second article was published by the News-Letter’s Editorial board here, where they explicitly express their pro-choice bias.

The Johns Hopkins Voice for Life Club hosted the Planned Parenthood Project provided by Students for Life of America on Thursday, October 22, 2015 to invite Hopkins students on the Homewood campus to open, honest discussion about life issues, including abortion and embryonic stem cell research, and to provide information about local health care clinics that offer life-affirming choices to women, including female students of the Hopkins student body. 

To clarify the articles, the Planned Parenthood Project is a display provided by Students for Life of America, a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that equips  students, like club members in the Johns Hopkins Voice for Life club, with resources, displays/events, and support to bring the important message of the culture of life to campuses across the United States.

In our efforts to educate on current life issues, to foster a culture of life within the Johns Hopkins and the surrounding communities, and to help those in need so that life is always a promising choice, the Johns Hopkins Voice for Life club hosted this display event to invite the Hopkins community on the Homewood campus to discuss life issues and to raise awareness of life-affirming options.

The Planned Parenthood Project was displayed on the Keyser Quad from 10:30am-2:30pm at the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus. At change of classes, many students passed by and accepted the information cards we had available. Between classes, there were about 40 in-depth discussions of club members one-on-one or in small groups with students. One particular conversation lasted for about one hour and we have received some follow-up emails regarding the display. We also had a resource table with many different pamphlets (including information on who Planned Parenthood is and what they do, Feminists for Life resources, adoption materials, post-abortive support information like Rachel’s Vineyard and more) and a double-sided local resource list that many students picked up.

All in all, the majority of students welcomed this invitation to honest discussion and to have their voices heard, whether they agreed or disagreed with the Johns Hopkins Voice for Life pro-life view. On the whole, except for a few students walking by loudly saying “abortion, on demand, no apologies”, the broad focus of the informational panels lead to respectful discussion among students of different perspectives about many topics. We received no comment from the Johns Hopkins Voice for Choice club, the pro-choice group on campus (though they did speak to the News-Letter per the article and publish this response). We also did not expressly discuss the display event with anyone on the Editorial Board of the News-Letter, which may explain the unfortunate disconnect between our purpose in hosting the event and their understanding of the event.

We would like to further clarify the display of pink crosses as it was misrepresented in the first publication of the article. On the Keyser Quad during the Planned Parenthood Project, we displayed stacks of pink crosses that totalled 897, each one representing an abortion. This part of the display gives a visual that represents the 897 abortions done by Planned Parenthood every day in the United States, which accounts for 94% of Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy services. Of the abortions done in the United States a day, 1 in 4 are done by Planned Parenthood, making them the nation’s largest abortion provider.

Here, we would like to clarify the concern raised in the article that contraception is not a pregnancy service and so the “94%” above should not consider contraception, as the article implies that we manipulated the statistics. We do not consider contraception in any form to be a pregnancy service and neither does the medical community. The World Health Organization notes pregnancy is “the nine months or so for which a woman carries a developing embryo and fetus in her womb” while the U.S. FDA lists the tested and accepted forms of birth control that may be used “[i]f you do not want to get pregnant”.  We think that this point is essential because it means that pregnancy services can only be provided for a woman who is already pregnant, not taking contraceptive measures to prevent pregnancy. Thus, we stand by the statistic that abortion accounts for 94% of Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy services.

Further, we would like to emphasize that the Johns Hopkins Voice for Life club has presented a consistent message of compassion for women and their pre-born children. We believe that women and their pre-born children deserve better than abortion. We hosted the Planned Parenthood Project from Students for Life of America display to raise awareness of who Planned Parenthood is (using their 2013-2014 Annual Report, which is their last publicly released report) and to invite the Homewood campus to open, honest discussion on life issues. As an Advocacy and Awareness club on the Homewood campus, we believe that we ought to educate students on current events and host events that serve as a platform for discussion for Hopkins students and our local community.

Importantly, we did not host the Planned Parenthood Project to protest Planned Parenthood in the way presented by Abby Biesman in the original publication of the article (which read: “[t]he group was protesting the fact that Planned Parenthood sold body parts of aborted fetuses to third parties for profit, a claim that Planned Parenthood denies”) nor in the way that the Editorial Board writes: “[t]he protest was based around allegations that Planned Parenthood sells the body parts of aborted fetuses to third parties. The group believes that the government should cut Planned Parenthood’s federal funding, a view the Editorial Board does not share”. We believe that federal funding should be re-allocated to equally and already federally qualified health centers that offer (1) a broader range of services than Planned Parenthood (for example, many offer mammograms, not just a prescription for a mammogram as is what is offered by Planned Parenthood) and (2) life-affirming choices and support. As of today, there are over 12,000 federally qualified health care centers that offer more services and life-affirming choices that could benefit from the re-allocation of funding.

In accordance with this belief, the Johns Hopkins Voice for Life club offered local resource information to the student body. We raised awareness that, in Baltimore, there are over 15 low-cost or free health care centers that offer women life-affirming choices and medical care (according to http://getyourcare.org, using the zip code 21218) while there is only one Planned Parenthood locally (according to Planned Parenthood’s own health center search, using the zip code 21218).

In particular, we believe that Hopkins students who become pregnant should not have to choose between their pre-born babies and their education. On this front, we have a Pregnant On Campus Initiative (http://www.pregnantatjhu.org) and are an available resource and support for pregnant and parenting students. Our Pregnant On Campus Initiative website features an anonymous online chat feature with trained Hopkins student counselors, a 24 hour hotline, a helpline, and information about free resources that are available, including free adoption services, free parenting classes, and free babysitting which Voice for Life members hope to provide for parenting students especially in needy times of the semester, such as finals week. We acknowledge that being a student-parent is difficult, and so, are doing things to offer women the promising choice of life by offering our help and support before and after birth (or after adoption).

The Johns Hopkins Voice for Life club knows that to be pro-life is to be pro-woman because woman deserve better than abortion always. As Mattie Brinkerhoff said in the The Revolution, 1860: “When a man steals to satisfy hunger, we may safely conclude that there is something wrong in society — so when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is an evidence that either by education or circumstances she has been greatly wronged.” We agree with Feminists for Life when they say: “Abortion represents a failure to listen and respond to the unmet needs of women. [We] recognize abortion as a symptom of, not a solution to, the continuing struggles women face in the workplace, on campus, at home, and in the world at large.”

The Johns Hopkins Voice for Life club is working to raise awareness on life issues and to help those in need so that life is always a promising choice. We are here to support pregnant students and student-parents from the pregnancy test, to birth and beyond.

To this end, from October 27th to November 1st, we displayed a “Life is…” banner on the Breezeway. Starting on November 2nd until December 4th, we will be hosting a Diaper and Baby Supplies Drive to benefit Pregnancy Center North, a 501(c)(3) non-profit medical clinic providing free life-affirming services to pregnant women since 1982.

To see photos of the SFLA’s Planned Parenthood Project at Johns Hopkins on October 22nd, please click here

(Written by Jessica Janneck, Class of 2016, JHU Voice for Life Co-President for the Fall 2015 Semester on behalf of the Johns Hopkins Voice for Life club, published on October 31, 2015)

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