Change My Mind: A discussion on abortion at UWEC

Recent anti-abortion rights booth leads students to reflect on their position regarding abortion rights

More stories from Luke Alex


Photo by Can Stock Photo

A recent booth on campus has made abortion a topic of conversation at UW-Eau Claire.

The lobby of Centennial Hall often bustles with students waiting for bagels and coffee from Einstein Bros. Bagels. On Thursday, the lobby was busy as usual but many students congregated for a different reason.

Students crowded around a small table with a sign that read “I’m Pro-Life. Try and change my mind.” Members of Students for Life, an anti-abortion rights organization at UW-Eau Claire, sat in chairs behind the table and spoke with students about their cause.

“We want to promote free speech and open dialogues,” Esther Theisen, a fourth-year history student and member of the organization, said. “We have a right to our opinion and we totally respect that everyone else has a right to theirs.”

Not everyone was pleased with the event. Kessa Albright, a fifth-year women, gender and sexuality student and abortion rights advocate, was one of those people.

“The whole event was publicity for this organization that I don’t think deserves the attention,” Albright said.

One of the biggest differences between anti-abortion rights and pro-abortion rights is the belief on when a child in the womb actually begins to have rights, Theisen said.

“We believe the right to life starts immediately,” Theisen said. “We don’t believe the right to live or die starts at any point after conception.”

On the other hand, individuals who are pro-abortion rights tend to believe that the rights of the mother should reign superior in the decision, Albright said.

“I don’t believe that life begins right after conception,” Albright said. “I think to say that is to neglect the rights of the women carrying the child.”

There are also disagreements on whom the issue actually affects.

“We believe that it’s a human rights issue, not specifically a women’s rights issue,” Theisen said. “Everyone needs to be born before the right to life begins. They are separate and unique beings and should be treated like that.”

The pro-abortion rights movement isn’t exclusively about abortion, but many factors that positively affect women, said Albright.

“A lot of people are uneducated on what pro-choice really is,” Albright said. “We don’t only want abortions, we want to be provided with things like comprehensive sex ed and reproductive health care and birth control.”

Albright said she believes that it’s not only an issue of limiting choices in the case of abortion, but a society and a patriarchy that tries to control women.

“They are trying to control women’s bodies,” Albright said. “The laws created around this issue are so restrictive, they are trying to take away inherent rights.”

Theisen and many anti-abortion rights activists argue that this inherent right actually belongs to the fetus and not the women, she said.

“There’s no given point where they are given rights,” Theisen said. “It makes most sense biologically and philosophically that these rights are inherited at conception.”

There may never be an end to the debate between pro-abortion rights and anti-abortion rights, but the right to free speech and expressing opinions is something they can both agree on, Theisen said.

“For people to confront the idea that there are differing opinions from them and engaging in a respectful manner,” Theisen said. “I just think that’s the best thing for this campus.”

Alex can be reached at [email protected].