By Isaac Price, Staff Writer
On Monday Nov 14, the Students for Life club hosted Joanna Hyatt, speaker and Director of Strategic Partnerships for Live Action. A group of around 15 individuals, both Whitworth students and club members, attended.
For the past 10 years, Hyatt has been a self-described sex educator, undercover anti-abortion activist and advocate of the pro-life movement. The Students for Life president Sarah Quinn, ‘23, said Hyatt reached out to the club over the summer, saying she admired their work on campus and wanted to give an address to them. This resulted in the recent event.
Quinn said the club’s mission is, “dedicated to creating a culture of life on campus and to facilitating conversations about a really difficult issue.”
Hyatt’s talk had the central theme of “how do we make abortion unthinkable.” She approached this in two routes: “the legal route and the heart route”. She began the legal route by saying public opinion varies widely, with 35 percent believing it should be legal in all circumstances, 13 percent saying it should be illegal in all circumstances, and a “moveable middle” of 52 percent who do not hold a clearly defined position on abortion. This moveable middle percentage is “hopeful,” Hyatt says, and is the crux of whom her work seeks to reach. Her primary goal method of moving them is using the “heart route”.
Hyatt said there are different ways of reaching this “moveable middle” for men and women. For women, it often means shifting the pro-life community’s messaging on what abortion looks like, communicating that being a mom is inherently empowering and can coexist with a career and more. For men, it involves bringing them back into the conversation and communicating that they have a responsibility to be involved.
The components of Hyatt’s approach to “make abortion unthinkable” was reaching young voters who may find themselves confused, prioritizing marriage, saving sex and engaging in prayer to change hearts. Hyatt emphasized the importance of “never losing sight of the person you are talking to, even in the midst of the big issue” when discussing conversations with people on the other side of the political spectrum.
The students who came to Weyerhaeuser for the event brought with them various perspectives on abortion and various reactions to the talk. Many who attended, including club leadership, said their paradigms shifted and they took away something valuable.
Sophomore and vice president of Students for Life, Jessica Castelloni, said the event brought her a change in thinking.
“A lot of the time the pro-choice movement brings up the [idea] that it’s men that don’t want [women] getting abortions, but Joanna spoke about how abortions really just help men. So, if there’s something we can do to stop abortion and empower women instead, we want to do that,” said Castelloni.
Quinn appreciated Hyatt’s overall approach to the issue, saying “a positive takeaway was just the hope that she offered for changing minds. I love that she focused on talking to people compassionately, and really recognizing them as a person and their own experience, because I think that’s just a much better way to treat people, a much better way to convince people of whatever you’re trying to convince them of and a better way to have a conversation about such an emotional topic.”
Deida Cortez, ‘24, decided to attend the event to expand her view on abortion. “I just kind of wanted to see what challenged me, especially because I am agnostic. I feel like a lot of people base their values on this one religion, especially for things like abortion. To me, [the question is] what does this issue look like for people who don’t really have a prioritized religion or don’t identify as religiously affiliated?”
As someone who identifies more with the pro-choice side, Cortez appreciated Hyatt’s emphasis on support, but thought the solution goes beyond that.
“I think there is an effort in building a safety net and a community around those people who are struggling and choosing whether to have an abortion or not, because I would say that that is one of the biggest issues when it comes to abortion. These people feel like there’s no way out, which is why they choose to get an abortion,” Cortez said. “There are a lot of scenarios. There are different barriers. It’s not just about community. There’s so much more that goes into abortion than just, ‘I don’t have somebody, I have to go do this.’ I do feel that looking into those other aspects of what’s causing abortion could go a long way for pro-lifers or movements like this.”
Itzel Martinez also thought there is more to an answer for abortion than the talk addressed, from a pro-choice perspective. “[The talk] was pushing marriage as . . . a solution but nowadays I’m not sure how beneficial that could be, especially with divorce rates. Sometimes marriage may not be the best answer, and just because people get married does not mean they will have a successful life for their children,” Martinez said.
Aileen Perez, ‘24, added more on the topic of marriage, saying “being married shouldn’t have anything to do with [a woman] choosing. . . . I feel like a woman should be able to say, ‘You know what? I’m married, but I’m not ready for a baby.’ It should be [her] choice, and marriage isn’t going to change that.”
Josie Saleen, ‘24, attended the event to gain wisdom from someone in the pro-life field on how to approach the issue. “I think that the way that [Hyatt] approached it was really compassionate, which I think was the biggest takeaway for me,”
Saleen said, “I’ve always thought if you’re going to talk to someone about being pro-choice, you have to confront them. . . . It’s really interesting to me to see how she thought that the best way is to get to know them, and to also involve men too.”
“Putting yourself in someone’s shoes [is important], and she was actually in those shoes, so hearing her speak to it was more impactful for me…. think events and speakers like this provide hope, and also [are] an effective way to talk about pressing issues and I think it’s just really beneficial,” Saleen said.
To learn more about Students for Life and their future events, contact Sarah Quinn at email@example.com