Editorial: Case For Life is a danger to the student body

The failure of CWRU to protect its community

Editorial Board


Here we go again. The fight for reproductive rights and privacy happens consistently throughout the world, and it’s no different at Case Western Reserve University—even though institutions should not infringe upon people’s right to choose what to do with their bodies.

On Aug. 31, 2021, the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), with a 19-17-1 vote, approved Case for Life (CFL) to be recognized as a student organization and receive funding. Last year, CFL was recognized as an official campus group by the Division of Student Affairs, which in itself was problematic, but at least they did not receive funding from our student government. 

To start, let’s give a rundown of why this issue is being brought up again. In Spring 2020, USG approved Case for Life as a student organization. Understandably, many students were upset by this recognition. In USG’s constitution, students can petition for a referendum that can potentially overturn a decision. The petition garnered enough signatures, a referendum occurred and Case for Life was ultimately denied recognition. However, in Fall 2020, as mentioned before, Case for Life was recognized by Student Affairs—which was supposed to be temporary due to this being a unique circumstance—and CFL was encouraged to apply for funding another time. 

A USG representative, who was present at the meeting and voted, gave a rundown of why USG ultimately approved Case for Life as a student organization, why the vote was so close and if anything can be done to overturn this decision. Firstly, even though technically USG followed all rules and regulations for the process of the vote, the representative stated that they “don’t think it’s fair that the student body is in a position of having to accept this club’s recognition because of the way our rules work.” For some clarification, the General Assembly can deny a club’s recognition in two situations: “if they don’t have enough members or if they don’t intend to recruit.” USG has no power in their governing documents to deny a club’s recognition on the basis of most other factors, such as student safety, which is determined by the university or its Office of Risk Management and Insurance. As a USG representative, they felt that “the vote was about more than simply answering those two questions,” and they voted against the recognition because they “felt there was no other way to acknowledge student voices and push back against the university’s classification of the club as safe and deserving of funding from our tuitions—a decision which no one has the power to appeal.” 

One of the other factors cited in not being able to deny recognition is freedom of speech; however, denying allocation of funding does not infringe upon CFL’s freedom of speech or existing rights. Invoking the First Amendment to reject recognition is a weak argument; not allocating funding does not equate to banning Case for Life from campus. If anything, allocation of funding through students’ tuition leaves students voiceless, unable to fight back against an organization that infringes upon at least half of the students’ right to reproductive privacy. 

All of USG voted on this issue at the meeting. The reason the vote was extremely close was because it was less about the actual ideology of the matter—if it had been, the USG representative is confident that “the club would have never been recognized”—but rather, “many saw it as a question of the role USG is supposed to have, and the potential overstep of power voting down this club could cause.” The basis of the issue of this vote “concerned the actual power given [to USG] by the university.” This goes to show that despite the outrage by the student body and despite the fear that Case for Life instills, the university continues to refuse to take action.

To put it simply, CWRU does not care about its students. If they actually cared, they would have immediately considered concerns about the student body’s immediate safety and the broader school-community impacts, and they would have easily determined this organization to pose a danger. Case for Life may have voiced their opposition to sidewalk counseling through an Instagram Direct Message (even though there is nothing to hold them accountable to that); however, they do not contest participating in protests outside of clinics or other forms of imposing their views on vulnerable people within and surrounding the CWRU community. Case for Life says its mission is to “protect and promote respect for all life,” and they commit to a “nonviolent approach in all that [they] do.” But protesting outside of an abortion clinic is inherently violent; preying on vulnerable people who, no matter the circumstance, have chosen to do what is best for their life violently threatens their privacy and their right to make that decision. This organization does not value the pregnant person’s life. 

What is worse is that beyond just implying that their life matters less than a group of cells that has not developed into a living and breathing human being, Case for Life will harass them for their own choice. If CFL really cared for the lives of children, they would focus on helping adoption centers, advocating for foster children, providing women who choose to continue a pregnancy with proper medical resources at no cost, and so forth; the pro-life sentiment is essentially forced birth, in that organizations like Case for Life are focused only on preventing abortions. There are several problems with what this organization represents and does. Hence, it is apparent that they pose a threat to the student body and anyone who chooses to have an abortion, and it is the university’s responsibility to prevent harm to our community. They failed and have been failing for quite some time now.

It is not just that students have to worry about laws that impose on their bodily autonomy, but they also have to worry about being in an environment that is supposed to be safe but isn’t. Just a reminder: Being pro-choice does not mean you are pro-abortion, but rather, you respect the right to choose. Another reminder: If your body is not the one affected by the decision, you are not entitled to determine it. You are not warranted to hold an opinion on a decision that exists entirely within the realm of someone else’s freedom to choose.

The fight for reproductive rights is happening within multiple states. Most recently, Texas implemented a new law that bans abortions as early as six weeks, affecting millions of people and forcing people to carry out pregnancies that they might not even know about. Also, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, “private individuals … can now sue ANYONE who they believe is providing abortion or assisting someone in accessing abortion after six weeks,” which “actively encourages private individuals to act as bounty hunters by awarding them at least $10,000 if they are successful.” As we all know, increasing the difficulty to get a safe abortion does not stop abortions but instead increases dangerous abortions for poor and marginalized communities. The privileged, by contrast, will still have access to proper abortions.

The recognition and funding for Case for Life go beyond just opinion. Who could care less if someone is pro-forced-birth, but when that someone takes action to enforce that opinion on others—that’s when it becomes dangerous. While USG did have an opportunity to represent the student body’s voices and stop what occurred, the ultimate blame lies on the university. CWRU has proven time and time again that they do not care about the well-being of their students, all the way from refusing to take definitive action to support sexual assault survivors, to allowing a racist and rapist presidential candidate on our campus during a pandemic, to now acknowledging Case for Life’s existence as a student organization. Even if Case for Life’s damaging actions were reported after the fact to the university, the USG representative expresses what most of us probably think—“the fact that the university has ignored student concerns about this club’s existence up until this point makes me concerned about their ability to conduct their investigation into any claims like that with the due diligence it deserves.” The recognition of Case for Life should not have been in the hands of the Undergraduate Student Government because they did not have the proper power or rules to decline their recognition and funding. It was and is CWRU’s administration’s responsibility to declare this organization a danger to the student body. Still, it is fair to say that the university cares more about its public image than its students. We already have to deal with anti-abortion laws dictated by governments that put our lives in danger, but now we have to face the reality of our tuition going to a club that makes the majority of the student body feel unsafe.