Originally published Nov. 16, 2011
The Grand Valley State University chapter of Students for Life joined anti-abortion groups all around Grand Rapids to participate in the annual 40 Days for Life protest. The demonstration began on Sept. 28 and went through Nov. 6, ending with a rally of personal testimonies and prayers.
Throughout the 40-day round-the-clock protest, students stood in silent prayer in front of the Heritage Clinic for Women on Fulton Street.
Although the nationwide protest is officially over, SFL President R.J. McVeigh said the student group will continue to demonstrate every Wednesday throughout the year.
“The entire reason that we’re there is to show our support for the mothers and fathers facing these decisions,” McVeigh said. “We want to show them that they have other options, that they don’t have to do this.”
The anti-abortion organization is balanced out at GVSU by Voices for Healthy Choices, a pro-abortion rights group. Voices for Healthy Choices counteracts Students for Life movements through campaigns like wearing arm bands that read “Choice” when SFL students cover their mouths with tape for the Day of Silent Solidarity.
“I would definitely say there’s tension (between the organizations) because they are two groups of people with very different beliefs about this issue,” said Danielle White, a student staff assistant in the Women’s Center.
A senior counselor from the clinic who wished to remain unnamed said the center, itself, provides counseling to its clients to discuss other possible options.
“Every woman who comes here sits down with a counselor,” she said. “Oftentimes what comes into play are spiritual issues.”
The employee said the people who get abortions at the clinic are often misunderstood and misjudged by the anti-abortion protesters.
“Nobody gets pregnant just to have an abortion,” she said. “That’s ridiculous. They realize there will be a sacrifice and loss regardless of their decision.”
The counselor requested that, in addition to the prayers to end abortion, the protesters also pray for affordable child care, an end to domestic violence and other situations that put women in the predicament in which they feel the need to choose between giving birth and aborting the fetus.
The counselor said she has not yet had any negative encounters with the Students for Life group, which she said was tame and respectful to the women during the 40 Days for Life campaign. She said the protests hardly affect the business at all.
“Some people said they felt more empowered to come here because of the people out front,” she said. “It made them more resolute in coming here.”
The law requires demonstrators to stay on public property, which, on Fulton Street, is the sidewalk right next to the road. McVeigh said the fast and heavy traffic on the street is dangerous and sometimes frightening.
Although St. Luke’s University Parish at GVSU was heavily involved in the protest, 40 Days for Life was an ecumenical movement, and the Students for Life group is also unaffiliated with a particular sect.
“We’re not a religious group,” McVeigh said. “We’re a service and advocacy group.”
White said the Women’s Center offers a diverse array of resources, from Christian-based counseling to Planned Parenthood.
Sign-up information for Students for Life or Voices for Healthy Choices can be found at http://www.gvsu.edu/studentlife/stuey.
Original publication: http://www.lanthorn.com/article/2011/11/students_for_life_protest_at_womens_clinic