Case For Life hosts guest speaker event with Equal Rights Institute

Milo Vetter, Staff Writer

Ever since its official recognition by the Undergraduate Student Government in 2020, Case For Life (CFL), a club on campus devoted to hosting discourse about abortion, has been marred by controvery. The USG vote to recognize CFL was close, but ultimately passed due to concerns that suppressing the club would be both legally tenuous and an unprecedented use of USG’s power to refuse club recognition.

CFL has been relatively quiet since then, but on Friday, Sept. 23, they hosted a speaker event with Emily Albrecht, the director of education and outreach at the Equal Rights Institute (ERI). The ERI is an anti-abortion organization devoted mainly to providing anti-abortion activists with talking points in order to equip them with strong arguments to defend their position against their peers. Albrecht has become a talented speaker and is probably one of the most knowledgeable people when it comes to the abortion debate.

It was evident that the administration of Case Western Reserve University was worried about conflict arising, stationing multiple security guards and staff from the dean’s office at the event. The members of CFL also checked in every person entering the room order to make sure they had registered in advance. It’s hard to say whether or not the measures were effective in discouraging conflict. Regardless, the event was peaceful enough that some of the security left early. 

The event itself began with a brief introduction and disclaimer by CFL President Ethan Hansen, who stated that the views of CFL and Albrecht are not endorsed by CWRU. Once the floor was given to Albrecht, she gave a measured and researched speech about the ethics of abortion from the perspective of bodily autonomy. She began by expressing her frustration at the level of conversation about abortion that currently takes place in the United States, both generally and specifically. “If you’re pro-choice and you’ve ever felt strawmanned by a pro-lifer, I’m so sorry. I’m trying to fix that,” she said.

Albrecht believes there are multiple arguments that could be made against the pro-life movement, but she finds those focusing on bodily autonomy and the “right to refuse” to be most challenging to her ideology. This argument states that even if one considers an embryo to be a full human being, a pregnant person should still have the right to refuse to support that human, and that the government should not force people to carry a pregnancy to term. 

Albrecht’s rebuttal to the “right to refuse” argument rests on a principle that abortion is not an act of passively withdrawing support, but rather actively killing a distinct human life. “We can’t keep fooling ourselves, abortion is killing… I know that there are very understandable emotional reasons to frame it differently, but I don’t think it’s helpful to pretend that abortion is something other than what it is,” she said. 

Albrecht’s argument raised certain questions, namely: does the morality of the situation become different when the perspective changes from withdrawing support from a dependent to killing them? If, in both cases, the consequence is the same, the intent is the same, and the person being killed is not yet sentient enough to understand, what difference is left between killing someone and withdrawing support from them in a manner that will leave them to die?

There are also other aspects to the debate when considering Albrecht’s argument. When arguing about killing distinct human life, one assumes that an embryo or fetus is conscientiously equal to an adult human, but that’s not a safe assumption for everyone. Ultimately, the question of your personal values, despite any claims of objectivity, will earn you disagreement from many.

Another important consideration is legality. Most of the time, when people argue about abortion, the biggest question in their heads is “should abortion be morally condemned?” But the question that really matters is “should someone who performs an abortion be punished by the law?” It is entirely possible to believe that abortions are morally inadvisable while also believing that the state shouldn’t have a say in whether they happen. The issue of abortion is extremely complicated, and no person who has thought about it for long enough will tell you that it’s simple.

It can be said confidently that the goal of CFL and Emily Albrecht—and possibly the ERI as a whole—is to get people to ask and discuss these questions respectfully and in good faith. While there is still bitter controversy about CFL’s recognition by the USG, CFL’s event and Albrecht seemed to emphasize the need for civility when debating these topics. The hope is that despite the heavy political implications of the abortion debate, students at CWRU can continue to have this discussion respectfully.