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Change My Mind: A discussion on abortion at UWEC

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

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Change My Mind: A discussion on abortion at UWEC

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

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

Can Stock Photo

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

Can Stock Photo

Can Stock Photo

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

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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]

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3 Comments

3 Responses to “Change My Mind: A discussion on abortion at UWEC”

  1. Suzon Gordon on December 11th, 2018 11:31 pm

    I am pro-life for the living. Let’s be sure everyone has health care, education, housing and food. I think being pro-life or pro-choice is a false dichotomy.

    I would have had an abortion had it been medically advised to save my life or if a child would be born so deformed as to be unable to live a sentient life. However I would never deny anyone the right NOT to have an abortion if they didn’t believe it was the correct thing to do. I only ask that the right of one who chooses abortion not be denied.

    The 14-year-old whom I knew who had a beautiful baby girl told me she had wanted to have an abortion, which was legal at that time and place, as she wanted to go to school and was not ready to be a mother. Her mother would not provide the requisite permission as a female had to be 16 to make an independent decision. I hope she continued her schooling, I hope she didn’t hate her mother for making her carry that pregnancy to term. I hope that if she did she didn’t take it out on the child.

    Yes, I’m a retired social worker and a grandmother. Every child, every life is precious to me. And I believe every woman who is old enough has the agency to make her own decision about carrying a pregnancy to term and raising a child (not an easy task in the best of circumstances, I’ll tell you).

    If you’re anti-abortion I won’t convince you. You believe in it, so don’t have an abortion. I believe life is a precious gift to be practiced with the utmost care. Medical abortion is just one tool of medicine that can enhance life for many women.

  2. Gary Tenpas on December 14th, 2018 9:58 am

    I am a 1968 graduate of UW-Eau Claire. During my senior year the Students for a Democratic Society petitioned the university to establish a presence at the school. Various organizations on campus were asked for input. I was a member of BUS, the business fraternity. I was one of 3, I believe, who voted in favor of allowing them on campus. All voices need to be heard. I am somewhat taken aback that the pro choice voice didn’t feel that the pro life voice should be heard. In full disclosure, I have been a pro life advocate for many years and have done significant volunteer work with an adoption agency. Now retired, I am a volunteer Guardian ad Litem in south Florida where I advocate for children who have been removed from their home due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. I applaud the university for their decision to give the pro life students a voice.

  3. Laura Fenzl on December 15th, 2018 1:47 am

    As a UWEC Blugold alum, it is so satisfying to see that free speech and rational conversation is saluted on campus. I will encourage those students that I teach to consider this university when making that all important decision to attend college. I was pro-abortion rights while a student at UWEC and have since experienced life events that have led me to change my perspective, completely. Now, as I respect the dignity of developing biological life at all levels, I value the thoughts of those men and women who do not. I lived your reality, your fears, and your desire to be heard,.

    Instead of the political warfare and lack of civil engagement that pervades the rest of our land, I am proud to see that my alma mater has the wisdom to rise above the norm. Thank you, and please, go further to uncover the philosophies that undergird our choices. Please, more freedom, transparency and testimony from every angle. That…is my UWEC!

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