After reading the University at Buffalo student newspaper and discovering that Planned Parenthood’s speakers would be making a presentation for the UB College Democrats, UB Students for Life immediately made plans to respond and engage in respectful and civil conversation on the topic of the Planned Parenthood’s services. We went about coalescing a team of pro-life students and community members of the Buffalo area, including crisis pregnancy centers’ staff.
Planned Parenthood, a notorious abortion provider subject to intense political controversy, was certainly worth a discussion among all students. At the meeting’s start, Quinne Sember, president of UB Democrats, emphatically stated that the police inside the room would enforce a series of “rules.” These “rules” included that no one but the presenters and herself would be allowed to speak; no one could take any pictures or record this public meeting unless they were on the executive board of UB Democrats; no one could freely distribute any kind of literature; and if that were not enough, Sember also stated that all questions would be pre-censored or unasked based on her subjective criteria. UB Democrats made it clear that there would be no open discussion after this presentation.
The first result of these extreme regulations endorsed by the hosted club, the police, and the university occurred when I attempted to take a picture with my phone of the overwhelming pro-life support present at this event. Students for Life club and Buffalo community members were the undeniable majority, much to the shock of the UB Democrats and Planned Parenthood representatives. The police inside of this public forum threatened to remove him and any other attendee who intended to follow suit.
Many questions were written down due to the lack of the statistical substance of Planned Parenthood’s presentation. One question written down and unanswered came from Maria DeSanto, a member of UB Students for Life, who wanted to know how many mammograms Planned Parenthood provides per year. Another member, Anne Mulrooney, wanted to know how abortions account for only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services while still earning them over $150 million in revenue (according to their own statistics). Yet another member, Greg Gaglione, wanted to know how many adoption referrals take place in relation to the number of abortions. All of these questions and more, asked by members of UB Students for Life as well as many non-members, were relevant to Planned Parenthood’s services, based on honest curiosity and rooted in objective observation. They were certainly questions worth asking and answering for the benefit of all attendees.
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But were they answered, or even asked? Unfortunately, most never made it past the page. President Sember’s method of choosing questions was nothing if not completely subjective, ridiculous, and shameful. Instead of focusing on questions relating directly to Planned Parenthood’s services, Sember flipped through the inquiries of students and dismissed each and every one with the exception of perhaps two that were entirely elementary and required only the most basic of answers. She then decided to ask her own questions, which were entirely irrelevant to Planned Parenthood’s services and not the least bit educational for any student, one of which included “So, like, where is the nearest Planned Parenthood to here?”
UB Democrats’ pre-censoring of honest questions and disregard for the necessity of an open discussion demonstrates their inability and unwillingness to participate in a civilized conversation on Planned Parenthood’s services. Besides being a violation of the students’ civil liberties, these offenses were shockingly un-democratic and against everything the club had claimed they championed. Students of all beliefs were left wondering why a reasonable and civilized discussion was denied them. Overall, the UB Democrats’ extreme regulations, the police and university’s compliance in the limiting of expression and discussion, and Planned Parenthood’s feeble presentation made for an intolerant, controlled, and unpleasant experience for everyone.
LifeNews Note: Christian Andzel is the Undergraduate Advisor for UB Students for Life and an affiliate of Students for Life of America.