Dustin Siggins

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Abortion is ‘life-sustaining act’: University of Michigan hosts display on ‘4,000 Years for Choice’

Dustin Siggins

ANN ARBOR, MI, March 28, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- "Reproductive freedom," including abortion and contraception, is a "life-sustaining act," according to a display funded by the University of Michigan.

Each year, the university’s Women's Studies Department and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender presents two exhibits that it says are "broadly related to issues of women and gender." Until May 29, the spring semester's 2014 exhibit will be "4,000 Years for Choice:  A Graphic Guide to Reproductive Justice."

According to Debra M. Schwartz, senior public relations representative for the Institute, the exhibit intends to "take into consideration not just a fetus or an unplanned pregnancy, but the life of the mother, the father, [and] the family."

"There are several lives to consider when you're considering reproduction," says Schwartz. She also contends that the exhibit "is not about abortion," nor "about being pro-choice or pro-life." Instead, Schwartz told LifeSiteNews that the exhibit examines 4,000 years of curiosity about the human body.

"We know that humankind has always wanted to learn more about our bodies, whether our circulatory system, our muscular and skeletal systems, or our reproductive systems. We also know people have been curious about our reproductive system," Schwartz said. "Sex is important to people, babies are important to people, and controlling the size of families has always been important to people."

Schwartz estimates the "education exhibit" will come in at "less than $2,000 of cost to the public."

According to Students for Life of America Executive Vice President Tina Whittington, Schwartz told her the university "paid $1,000 to have the artist, Heather Ault, come onto campus to give a lecture." The display, she said, was loaned to the university "free of charge."

Whittington informed LifeSiteNews that she told Schwartz she was a student at a university so she "could find out the truth."

Ault's website describes the poster series as intended to "highlight women's stories of gratitude, thankfulness, and self-determination." The website says Ault is an "activist for abortion rights and reproductive justice" and a member of the board for the Abortion Conversation Network and Social Media Coordinator for the Abortion Care Network.

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Schwartz told LifeSiteNews that the poster series has religious influences, including by the Catholic Church. She sent the text of two posters that mention the Church, saying "there is a shout-out to the Catholic Church in one of these posters because it supports the rhythm method."

One poster says: "In the year 388, Augustine of Hippo wrote about a woman's 'safe period.' It wasn't until 1930 when a Roman Catholic physician developed a 'rhythm method' based on the new scientific understanding of ovulation. In the 1950s, Catholic medical researchers made further discoveries in fertility awareness, such as monitoring cervical fluid, leading even more women to reproductive freedom. The Catholic Church, and many others, endorses natural family planning method teaches [SIC] it to married couples worldwide."

Mary Nachazel, president of Students for Life at the University of Michigan, told LifeSiteNews that her group has only just learned about the display. "We have not had a chance to see it firsthand. However, the material is being presented as fact and that it is a wonderful and progressive thing that women now have full access to abortion."

Nachazel criticized the display's co-sponsors -- the university's Program for Sexual Rights and Reproductive Justice, the Department for Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the Stamps School of Art and Design. "In the future, if our group wants to co sponsor an event with any of these groups, I sincerely hope that they are as accepting to us and our beliefs as they are to this exhibit," said Nachazel.

Her organization has not seen many issues with the university, says Nachazel. "The university is very cautious about treating both our club and Students for Choice equally.  Regarding the abortion issue as a whole, classes and such are generally very one-sided, but with the student organizations, we do not have problems," she said.

In 2011, the University of Michigan's Students for Life chapter brought a graphic image display to campus. The display was brought to campus by the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform. Pro-life students hosted a similar display by the Center in 2000.

When asked whether abstinence was part of the poster display, Schwartz said she "[has] not noticed one on abstinence." In a follow-up e-mail, Schwartz said, "There is hardly a doubt that over the centuries men and women have sought ways to control the size of their families so that they might provide food, clothing, shelter, and education for those they love most. This is life sustaining in its fullest sense."

"The Catholic Church has defined ways to do this that fall within its tenets," according to Schwartz. She also says the display is life-sustaining because the World Health Organization (WHO) says "all women, including adolescents, need access to family planning, safe abortion services to the full extent of the law, and quality post-abortive care." This is done to prevent the deaths of women, according to the WHO, which says "it is also vital to prevent unwanted and too-early pregnancies."

Whittington told LifeSiteNews that Students for Life of America's national umbrella launched a "call-in campaign" this afternoon for supporters to call the university. The goal, says Whittington, is "to ensure that only private money is used for this and other, similar displays and projects."

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