FIU YAF invites controversial Pro Life group Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR) to campus, where it receives a warm welcome. The Beacon resorts to spin doctoring
Lois Cunningham of CBR discusses the group's signs with an interested FIU student
On the week of February 8-12, at the invitation of Young Americans for Freedom, the Center for Bio-ethical Reform (CBR) finished a tour throughout the six state universities in Florida by visiting FIU. They were promoting their genocide awareness program which involves setting up large signs in a central location on campus, and distributing flyers and other literature which show similarities between abortion and other forms of genocide. Young Americans for Freedom at FIU had been in contact with CBR since late last year. In fact, CBR used the letter we sent officially inviting them to visit FIU to facilitate their negotiations with the FIU administration about where and how they could display their signs. The Public Safety department agreed to place barricades around the "free speech" area between the fountain and the library to enclose the display. CBR agreed to put the displays up each day and take them down by 5:00 PM.
YAF also contacted the FIU chapter of the National Organization for Women, and informed them that CBR would be coming, invited them to participate in a debate on the issue, and suggested they might want to set up a table with their literature right across from the CBR display ( one of CBR's suggestions). We were unable to arrange for a debate, but NOW did set up their table across form the CBR display.
The week CBR came to campus, the FIU student newspaper The Beacon ran a rather biased editorial by Opinion Editor Brad Bauman entitled "Anti-abortion group an affront to all I stand for" (Vol. X No.21, February 9, 1999 Pg 8 ). In his article, Mr Bauman claims to be appalled by CBR's signs equating the killings during the hollocaust to the millions of unborn children being killed by abortion. He says; " to use the memory of the Holocaust in order to further your own political ideals is sick and disturbed. Whoever these poeople are, they should be shot for bad taste." Apparently the thought of someone actually doing something out of sincerely felt conviction, rather than for purposes of political manipulation is alien to Mr Bauman.
He goes on to say "Anti-abortion activists have adopted this insame notion that they are so holy, so pure and so good that they have the right (emphasis his) to tell people how to live their lives. These demented, holier than thou freaks do not respect the notion that I and I alone can determine the appropriate way of running my life and treating my body." This claim seems partcularly badly thought out (unless Mr Bauman has serious gender recognition problems). The central point in this entire debate in fact, is not whether or not people have a right to do what they want with their bodies, but at what point such rights come into existence. If the moral implications of abortion were as insignificant as those of someone having a cancerous tumor removed, there would be no debate at all. Mr Bauman fails to recongize that what inspires CBR and other pro-life groups to action is the need to protect the most fundamental of human rights of a minority group; the right to live. Neither CBR nor any other sincere pro-life group foams at the mouth at the idea of denying people their rights as Mr Bauman suggests, they simply believe that the unborn child is just as deserving of these rights as the mother.
In fact, CBR's posters depicting the horrors of abortion right beside the horrors of the holocaust are not meant as an exact comparison. It is important, however to note some of the similarities. Human beings in general find the idea of killing others to be repugnant (chalk it up to "natural law"), so it is no surprise that most acts of genocide involve some type of de-humanization of the group being killed. During the hollocaust, Nazi propaganda often equated Jews with rats, or other vermin. Nazi literature is littered with terms such as "Untermenschen" (sub-humans). Individual Nazis who might have had qualms about the things they were doing could always tell themselves that it was ok, because that wasn't really a person they were killing, it was just an animal. In much the same way, the proponents of abortion now tell people that by performing an abortion, it's not a person being harmed, though the catch phrase now is that it's just a fetus.
The comparison extends to economic aspects aswell. Ironically, the company which manufactures RU486, the abortion pill is owned by the same company which manufactured the gas Zyklon B for the Nazis to use in their extermination camps. Here in the United States, a company by the name of Planned Parenthood is the single biggest provider of abortions. This is the same company that encourages the distribution of condoms and other propylaptics to school children, but fails miserably in stressing the point that no propylaptic is 100% effective. They continuously oppose any attempt to try to encourage abstinence (the only completely effective protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases), as being out of touch with the times. This is to be expected, since an end to unwanted pregnancies would put them out of business. Much like the Krupp family, and IG Farben, whose factories worked people to death in German concentration camps, Planned Parenthood has turned death into big business.
Lastly, Mr Bauman finished by saying that the entire abortion debate was unnecessary, and that pro-lifers should just move on to other issues. He said; "if they really want to change the world, then do so by leading a good life, not by taking away freedom. Let's move on to the problems that need to be remedied." It's easy to imagine unrepentant Nazis saying the same type of thing to anyone trying to stop any of the killings during the war. It's fortunate that we live in a country where freedom of speech is still supposed to be respected. In Mr Bauman's perfect world, apparently people couldn't express their beliefs if he didn't feel what they were saying was important, of if he just didnt feel like listening. It is probably something of a Freudian slip of Mr Bauman to say that pro-lifers wanted to "change the world" since to the best of our recollection, neither CBR nor any other pro-life organization has stated having such lofty goals. (though perhaps Mr Bauman does).
The acting Vice President of Student Affairs, Patricia Telles-Irwin also wrote a piece on the same issue of the Beacon basically stating that CBR's first amendment rights would be upheld. The small article, apologetic as it may have been is to be applauded. It's not popular these days to uphold the rights of conservative organizations, so it's good to see that someone still believes in keeping the "marketplace of ideas" a viable concept in academia.
CBR came to campus as scheduled with the aid of Miami Right to Life who was able to provide housing and food for all thirteen of the CBR participants. Through the week, CBR set up their displays, and distributed their literature to small but surprisingly enthusiastic crowds. Overall there was very little controversy. YAF was in contact with them every day they were there, and according to Gregg Cunningham, who was heading up the CBR visit, FIU was the most amicable campus they'd been at through the entire tour. In fact, Cunningham mentioned that though the whole week was quieter than they had anticipated, he had received mostly positive responses from most people that approached, with only a small number of people being extremely disturbed. Even those who were offended by the signs were not as belligerent as those in other campuses, and even some of these people responded positively after discussing the issue with CBR's representatives. Cunningham said, that in retrospect positive responces were to be expected given the largely Catholic, family oriented nature of the South Florida community.
It is apparent to us that the Beacon was hoping for widespread protests to the group's visit. This came as no surprise to the leadership of YAF since we've had some dealings with them in the past. A few years ago, they started an ongoing controversy over a banner we placed in GC by running two letters supporting it, and five criticizing it (two of these after calling for a halt to the debate). Some time later, we paid them to run an anti-Marx ad which they grudgingly ran only after adding their own disclaimer that the opinions expressed therein didn't necessarily reflect the opinions of the Beacon or its staff. They later published an ad by a socialist group specifically claiming to be a responce to our ad, without any similar disclaimer! (what does that say about them?)
True to their character, the Beacon tried to put their own spin on what had happened the week of the CBR visit. The week after the visit, the cover story read "Anti-abortion display fails to jolt FIU" (Vol.X No.22, February 16, 1999). They tried to portray the event as having been ignored by the FIU student body. In fact, as Gregg Cunningham himself had told us, and as we had seen for ourselves, nothing could be further from the truth. We suppose it would be embarassing to the Beacon to have to admit that the group they hoped to rally opposition to was warmly welcomed, so there's very little reason to be surprised about the nature of this article. If there's any good that can come from all this it's that the staff of the Beacon was denied what they really wanted; the chance to report on widespread and loud protests against a group which they would have liked to see kicked off campus. Instead they were forced to try to grope around for an appropriate angle to avoid looking foolish or out of touch (whether or not they succeeded is still questionable). A close second is that the Beacon was forced to show their true colors, but they've done this in the past with such dogged consistency that it's not even fun to see anymore.
For more information on CBR, check out their website at http://www.cbrinfo.org/
Vasquez (left) and Eddie Perez (right), by the CBR
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