Pro-Life student group faces censorship, antagonism on college campus
by Rachel BohannonFriday, June 22, 2012
Jennifer Rumpf, former president of the Pro-Life Aggies at Texas A&M University, said that her group faced greater forces of antagonism this past school year than at any other time in the group’s 17-year history, braving censorship and hostility from fellow students.
Jennifer, a Texas Right to Life “Generation Now” scholarship recipient, told Texas Right to Life that she is proud of the positive impact her group has had on campus, which she gauges in part by the amount of opposition they faced.
Pro-Life Aggies significantly grew in membership this year, donating a record number of baby supplies to a local pregnancy center, and expanding its service outreach to include a private scholarship for pregnant and parenting students. To fund the scholarship -- created and managed by the group itself -- Pro-Life Aggies organized a well-attended 5K run.
More families are benefiting from the Pro-Life Aggies’ service than ever before, but not everybody is happy with their growing influence. The Battalion, A&M’s school newspaper, refused to run any of the group’s official ads or articles, calling the group and its message too controversial.
“A&M is, overall, a conservative campus,” remarked Jennifer, “so the censorship made no sense to us at all. At first, we thought that the editor just wanted to keep everything neutral.”
But soon afterwards, the newspaper staff showed its cards: they began running pieces written by the Pro-Choice Aggies, a brand new student group specifically organized to oppose the Pro-Life Aggies’ influence on campus.
“When we found out that the Pro-Choice Aggies had become an official group and had teamed up with the newspaper, we knew that the potential for conflict was very high. We started observing them and discovered that they were very hostile to our cause and would smear our events on their group’s Facebook page,” said Jennifer.
Jennifer said that because members of the Pro-Choice Aggies are likely either misinformed or hurting after an abortion, she and her officers decided the best way to preempt any conflict was to reach out to them. She and Laura Campos -- current president of Pro-Life Aggies -- invited the president of Pro-Choice Aggies to meet face-to-face.
The president agreed to a meeting. Jennifer and Laura explained to her that they wanted to have civil discourse with her group, and that their two organizations had a common mission to help women.
“She was surprised and impressed when we told her about our scholarship. We told her that we would even welcome her group’s support,” said Jennifer.
After the meeting, Jennifer and Laura felt positive about reaching out to her, thinking that they had prevented any conflict, but while the Pro-Choice Aggies’ president was polite to them in person, her group’s membership organized a counter-protest to a Pro-Life Aggies event just a week later.
Jennifer said, “Because of how hostile they had been before, we actually feared for our safety, so we alerted the department of Student Activities. They said they couldn’t stop it, but that they would keep an eye out.
“Our event was very peaceful. We just had our table out with some information and people started yelling curse words, saying, ‘You let women die! You let women die!’”
When asked by the Pro-Life Aggies to come to their table to talk, the protesters angrily walked away.
After that incident, members of the Pro-Life Aggies made it a point to stop by the Pro-Choice Aggies’ table at events to talk, not only to encourage positive dialogue between the groups, but to gain insight.
“We need to know what they’re doing so that we can understand where they are coming from,” said Jennifer. “Many of them really care about women and are advocating what our culture promotes as women’s rights. As Pro-Lifers, we are charged with enabling others to value human life at all stages by dispelling misinformation and presenting the facts.”
Jennifer’s group is, indeed, afforded many opportunities to set the record straight. The Pro-Choice Aggies frequently pass out literature that looks similar to the Pro-Life Aggies’, but has the completely opposite message. For example, they have an illustration of what is supposed to be an unborn baby, but it looks distorted and unhuman. The obvious message is it’s not a baby. Feel comfortable with your choice.
In response to that particular handout, Joseph Francis -- a Pro-Life Aggies officer and Generation Now scholarship recipient -- asked the Pro-Choice Aggies when a baby’s heart begins to beat. They didn’t know. Joseph told them it began at 21 days, much younger than the supposed age of the “human” fetus they were depicting.
Jennifer said that it is difficult for some people to accept these truths, especially those who have had, or encouraged a loved one to have, an abortion. But, she sees that her group’s peaceful and persistent approach is affecting the opposition.
“Although we point out the inaccuracies in their handouts, we also take time to focus on common ground. They have admitted that our scholarship for moms is pretty awesome.
“I believe that by challenging the Pro-Choice Aggies to consider the true value of human life beginning at the moment of fertilization, we will eventually see a transformation in some of those who are pro-choice.” said Jennifer.
Jennifer will graduate in December and attend medical school in the Fall of 2013. When asked about the future of her group, she said, “I expect the antagonism to grow along with the group’s achievements. The more good Pro-Life Aggies does, the more opposition they’ll face. It’s natural.”
Jennifer said that regardless of any confrontation, her group will defy the negative stereotypes often associated with Pro-Lifers.
“We have resolved to not change what we do in response to others, but continue to fight with love and truth to advocate for Life. I know that ethic will remain in the group long after I leave,” she said.
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