Guest post by Kathryn Schneider, President of Del Norte Students for Life in San Diego, CA
In mid-April, our group tabled at our school’s “Club Rush” so that our peers could learn more about our club. We hoped to gain new members and start conversations about the pro-life movement. While we did gain a few members and some encouragement, we also had some negative interactions as well.
One student came up to me the first day and said that our display was interesting. Then she said, “Babies are yummy. I eat babies for breakfast,” and walked away. Another student came by our table and motioned to our brochure about fetal development, saying, “That egg looks unseasoned.” Another approached me and started rapid firing his opinions with little time in between for me to respond. While he was being a little rude and blunt, in an effort to have a productive conversation, I asked him to email me his questions so I could look at them and talk to him at Club Rush the next day.
I looked at his questions and prepared some responses so that we could have a productive conversation the next day. But he never showed up. Instead, he commented on our Instagram post that contained a picture of our group’s table. While he didn’t necessarily mean to harass us, his comment spurred an onslaught of over 3,000 comments on that post on Instagram the next day, mostly from students at our school or surrounding area.
Many of the comments were pro-choice and said things like, “This club is disgusting” or “I’m disappointed this club exists” or “I’m ashamed to go to this school” or “All you care about is controlling women’s bodies.” But others said things directly meant to bully club members. These comments included things like, “I know the kids in this club are the ones who sit alone at lunch,” or “Give up on your dreams and die” or “Imagine applying to college and saying that you started a club against women’s rights.” Someone even said that we should have been aborted. Others just said “ew”, “gross”, “die”, etc. Plenty more tried to send awful comments to our club email and website as well as through other communications. Most of the comments were extremely negative and degrading. However, there were a few respectful conversations that resulted between pro-life and pro-choice people.
It was nice that a number of people reached out to us, both pro-life and pro-choice, students and otherwise, to express their sadness that this bullying and harassment was occurring. Many encouraged us to continue our important work. Others, from both sides, just said that they stood by our free speech rights and were disappointed about how some people reacted.
When we started receiving comments online, we were mostly excited to gain some more awareness for our club. We hoped to spark more conversations and gain new members. However, the comments soon turned into a lot of hate, not just disagreement. Our club has existed for almost 2 years and has never received backlash like this.
I hope that overall, people learn from this incident and realize that there are many people who do not respect others’ free speech rights, and that they need to be more peaceful and kind. I hope people realize that we as a society need to be more willing to have peaceful dialogues rather than resort to bullying or threatening the free speech of others. And I hope other pro-life students who face bullying or harassment don’t back down in the face of difficulty and keep fighting for what is right. Keep being kind and positive in your work. Innocent lives are depending on you!
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