Gonzaga president defends rejection of ‘negative’ pro-life campus paper insert

Gonzaga President Fr. Robert J. Spitzer
Gonzaga President Fr. Robert J. Spitzer


Gonzaga University President Father Robert Spitzer, SJ, has issued a statement explaining the Gonzaga student newspaper’s rejection of a pro-life group’s insert and its decision to publish an alternative pro-life insert written by the university’s Office of Mission.

The Gonzaga Bulletin student newspaper had rejected the Human Life Alliance’s advertising insert “We Know Better Now.”

The 12-page insert has a flashy, professional design with many full-color photographs and colorful stylistic changes marking different topics.

After listing national pregnancy center resources and national organizations which help those recovering from the effects of an abortion, the insert vigorously argues for the pro-life position.

“We’ve been lied to,” the insert says on its first page, arguing that it is now better known that abortion kills a human being, that it hurts women, and that abortion has a “racist legacy.”

On its second page, titled “Words Can Be Deceptive,” the insert refutes common arguments in favor of abortion, such as invocations of “the freedom to choose,” the claims that every child should be “wanted,” and the focus upon cases such as rape, incest, and fetal deformity.

“The term ‘pro-choice’ avoids talking about what you’re choosing,” the insert comments.

The insert presents three personal stories from a woman who obtained an abortion, a man who helped procure several abortions for his ex-wife, and a woman who almost had an abortion but was thankful she was turned away by the abortionist.

A full-page color cartoon strip depicts the “true story” of a woman who cannot justify having an abortion but instead gives her child up for adoption. Former abortionists and clinic staff workers are also quoted in the insert, alongside short articles on the long-term effects of abortion, fetal development and biology, and abortion methods.

Describing the Vacuum Aspiration method, the insert reads:

“In this first trimester procedure, the abortionist inserts a hollow plastic suction tube into the dilated cervix. The uterus is emptied by either a manual syringe or high-powered suction machine. The baby’s body is torn into pieces as he or she is being pulled through the hose.”

The insert closes with a full page of a calculator bearing the slogan “Some things don’t add up.”

Gonzaga president Father Spitzer commented on the student newspaper’s rejection of the “We Know Better Now” insert.

“I share with many people around the world a concern for the unborn, and for the sanctity of human life. Gonzaga University has always supported the pro-life movement,” Father Spitzer said in a Thursday statement.

He explained that the advertisement was rejected “not from any disagreement with the pro-life cause, but out of a preference to emphasize a positive pro-life message rather than a negative one.”

He did not detail what negative messages he believed to be emphasized in the Human Life Alliance’s insert.

Father Spitzer announced that last week the Gonzaga pamphlet “Standing for the Unborn” was distributed in The Gonzaga Bulletin. He noted that the publication has been included in the Bulletin in the past.

In contrast with the insert “We Know Better Now,” “Standing for the Unborn” appears bland, using as colors only black and several shades of blue.

The Jesuits’ 16-page pamphlet opens with a list of phone numbers for local pregnancy and family service centers, university ministry, and Catholic Charities. It then includes a prayer that God “Awaken in every heart reverence for the work of your hands, and renew among your people a readiness to nurture and sustain your precious gift of life.”

Calling abortion a “delicate and controversial topic,” the Jesuits’ pamphlet emphasizes “the correctness of Catholic Church teaching regarding abortion, joining with many other people of conscience who are working to protect life in the womb, and who are seeking an end to abortion so as to restore our country’s respect for the core human value of the right to life.”

The 2003 pamphlet, written in the 30th anniversary year of the Roe v. Wade decision, states “more than 39 million American lives have been ended by abortion. Among all the justice issues we as a society should view with grave concern, abortion is a key social evil.”

Emphasizing that abortion is a human rights issue, the pamphlet rebukes framing the issue “as merely a question of personal preference or private choice.” Saying it is “critical to pay attention to ‘how’ our defense of abortion proceeds,” it urges that dialogue “should never devolve into a shrill clash of shouts, much less threats of violence.”

Another section of the pamphlet discusses the Jesuit tradition of respect for life.

“There can be no service of faith without the promotion of justice,” it reads. “Jesuits, therefore, must seek an end to the injustice of abortion.”

Noting the “tremendous pressure” some pregnant women face, the pamphlet states that abortion is an indication many women are not receiving the support they need. It also acknowledges that “horrible trauma and regret often haunt participants in the aftermath of abortion.”

The Jesuit emphasis on freedom is also discussed: “All too often in abortion debates, ‘liberty’ and ‘choice’ devolve into code-words for utter freedom to terminate a pregnancy without limits or conditions.”

Turning to a consideration of how to speak about abortion in a pluralistic society, saying the Jesuits “would naturally prefer to live in a country where every citizen, voter, and court consistently favor legal recognition of and protection for the unborn.” However, discussion and persuasion on the issue must recognize that phrases like “the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” have “contested meanings that others understand differently than we do.”

People should respond to this difference by “engaging those who initially disagree with us on some issues, seeking to create an acceptable consensus wherever possible by building upon those truths on which we can reach agreement, while continuing to educate and persuade those who disagree with our convictions.”

“We must listen respectfully to others’ opinions, just as we expect a fair hearing of our own arguments against abortion. Our confidence in the persuasive power of well-articulated defenses of pro-life positions sustains us, even as we acknowledge the long struggle ahead,” the pamphlet continues.

In comparison to the Human Life Alliance’s insert, the Jesuits’ pamphlet includes very few direct arguments countering the common claims of abortion proponents and rarely directly addresses those who might be tempted to obtain an abortion.

However, the pamphlet closes with reports on how students at Jesuit schools are “standing up for life.”

Father Spitzer’s statement on the pamphlet closed by saying:

“I would like to again reaffirm Gonzaga University's commitment to the pro-life movement, in which I have been personally involved for 24 years.”

“God bless you all for your efforts in protecting the culture of life.”

The Human Life Alliance’s insert is located at http://www.humanlife.org/publications/wkbn.pdf 

The Jesuits’ pamphlet is located at  http://www.gonzaga.edu/News-and- Events/pdf/pamphlet.pdf

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