The UW-Stevens Point pro-life organization, Pointers for Life, apologized this week after another pro-life group not associated with the college or group was accused of harassing students and disrupting classes.
The anti-abortion group Missionaries to the Preborn protested at the UW-Stevens Point campus earlier this week, as part of their “Wisconsin Fall Campus Tour” which also included UW Whitewater, Milwaukee, and Oshkosh campuses. The pro-life group is known for showing graphic posters and has been criticized for their aggressive tactics protesting in the past.
On Tuesday the group protested at the UW-Stevens Point campus where is was reported that the group yelled at students and said things such as “Rape is a preference,” and, “It is a woman’s duty to bring our children.” Other’s claim that members of the group also made homophobic remarks.
While the protest was heated, WAOW channel 9 news reported that while there was no reported violence, “authorities had to step in when the protesters started using bull horns or megaphones which was seen a a disruption to classes.”
The same day, the pro-life group on campus, “Pointers for Life” posted an apology to their Facebook page and to UWSP’s extracurricular activity website as a blog post, apologizing for any “offense or discomfort attributed to these displays” and conveyed that they are in no way affiliated with the group Missionaries to Preborn:
“…We do not condone their actions here, today. We want to clarify that our club is a secular and nonpartisan club that will allow any members into it who support our cause. We do not discriminate against age, race, creed, religion, color, handicap, disability, sex, gender, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, political affiliation or genetics. This was unlike the displays held here today.”
President of Pointers for Life, Michael Heer, told Media Trackers via email that he was not aware of the Missionaries to the Preborn’s plans to come to UWSP, although a previous president of the group informed him that they do this display every year, when asking the group over Facebook Messenger about what was happening at the time.
Heer described he was “blindsided” by the nature of the demonstration:
Initially, I thought it was simply a religious group on campus. One man had a megaphone and was professing how everyone is going to hell if you have premarital sex etc. I went to my first class that day and when I got out I saw that they had put up posters of both preborn and aborted babies. Now, they had made it an issue for our club.
I decided to talk to one them. He was a reasonable man compared to the others. His pamphlets compared slavery and abortion and his stance on the subject was very Christian and libertarian. I was only trying to get information on the group. My biggest regret about the whole situation is how I did not ask them to politely leave as the president of my club. I did not know how to react in this situation. I was blindsided. I never saw a display like this one.
Now, they have made this issue prevalent on campus. You can hear conversations all throughout campus on this subject but most of them are just solidifying their pro-choice views. I also want to applaud some of the other members of my club for taking harder stances against these protesters.
As for the criticism surrounding the Missionaries to the Preborn’s methods, such as showing graphic photos, Heer wrote strongly against them:
They are tasteless and unhelpful. Since this is my first year taking over as president of the club, I have made it very clear that we need to be secular and nonpartisan in our approach. It is something we have to be unwavering in. However, we do discuss our views concerning religion in our group. We just have to argue scientifically, morally, ethical, and logically when we debate our fellow students. If you take the religious or solely conservative approach, you shut out a large majority of people. That is what the protester group did. They looked insane condemning people to hell while those they condemned do not even believe in that. You have to know your audience to make the best arguments.
I am also angry with the posters they used showing the aborted humans. It is not right for our movement to use this vulgar method to make a point. Although, I know that this is what happens during an abortion, we need to comfort these people, not scare them. There are somethings that cannot be unseen. They burn into your mind and stay there.
Media Trackers asked Heer why the Pointers for Life group felt they needed to apologize, despite the fact that they are in no way affiliated with the other group:
We simply had to. That group essentially dropped a nuclear bomb on this discussion on campus. They made it more divisive. They essentially ruined the plans my club was making to bring civil discussion to campus. I wanted to tear down these dividing walls and echo chambers and just let each side talk about the issue. They wanted to make people feel bad. I had to let it be known that Pointers for Life did not condone these actions. That we are divorced from these methods they used and also to try to heal both sides.
The only positive was that they gave us a platform to help invite people to our club. This approach in apologizing was needed for damage control.
As for what other pro-life movement groups could take away from this, Heer told Media Trackers open discussion is vital:
You have to know your audience. We are not a religious university. So, if you argue that way it will not help your cause. I would also encourage every pro-life group to try talking and discussing first and not having a rally type display.